White House: 'Limited' Libya operation didn't require approval of Congress
Responding to a House resolution, the White House cited 'important US interests' in claiming authority for the 'constrained' military operations in Libya. Critics said their concerns were not satisfied.
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“If the president thinks it’s in the best interest of the United States to commit US military personnel to the conflict in Libya, he needs to come to Congress for an up or down vote. Otherwise, he is in violation of [the] Constitution and the oath he took to preserve, protect and defend it,” he added, in a statement released after the report.Skip to next paragraph
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To date, the US operation in Libya has cost $713.6 million, including $1.1 million for humanitarian operations. There has not been a significant operational impact on US military or diplomatic activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report said.
The classified annex of the report included an assessment of opposition military groups and extremist groups in Libya – a main concern of congressional critics. The unclassified version of the report briefly described the Libyan opposition’s 45-member Transitional National Council as representing the Libyan people during the current crisis.
“We are encouraged by the steps taken by the TNC to bring Libyans together to plan their own future and a permanent, inclusive constitutional system that will protect the rights of all Libyans,” the report said. “We are not aware of any direct relationship between the TNC and al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Libya Islamic Fighting Group or any other terrorist organization.”
UN authorization challenged
A former adviser to Congress on executive power issues challenged the president’s claim to engage US forces with authorization from the United Nations. “It’s absurd to say that the president can get authorization from the UN Security Council and not the Congress,” said Louis Fisher, scholar in residence with the Constitution Project who worked for the Congress on such issues from 1970 to 2010.
“The President and the Senate cannot take power from Congress, including the House of Representatives, and give it to an outside body. If anyone thought that the UN Charter was going to do that, it never would have passed,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week delayed a bipartisan resolution expressing support for a limited intervention in Libya in order to give senators time to consider the new White House report. The resolution is sponsored by committee chairman John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In its report, the White House said that it had “repeatedly indicated its strong support” for this resolution, “that would confirm that both branches are united in their commitment to supporting the aspirations of the Libyan people for political reform and self-government.”