Libya conflict: Backlash ensues to Obama's refusal to seek Congress's nod
Obama says US military intervention in Libya does not require consent from Congress. Many lawmakers and pundits say otherwise. The rub is over the definition of 'hostilities.'
The Obama administration is increasingly isolated at home over its handling of the Libya conflict – mainly over its refusal to seek Congress’s consent for continued US military operations against the Qaddafi regime, but also over the US role in the Libya campaign in the first place.Skip to next paragraph
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The White House found little support this week for its assertion that US internvention in Libya does not amount to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a president can singlehandedly engage the nation in “hostilities” for 60 days, but thereafter he either needs congressional approval to continue or has 30 additional days to withdraw US forces. That 90-day free pass is over on Sunday, critics say.
From Democrats to Republicans, from Fox News commentators to the Washington Post, criticism – even guffawing – resounded over the administration’s reasoning that US activities do not rise to the level of “hostilities.” No words are minced in the excerpts below.
• “An honest appraisal of the activities that the United States continues to engage in would put the administration squarely within the purview of the War Powers Resolution,” the Washington Post editorial board opined Thursday, noting continuing US airstrikes, use of Predator drones, and logistical and intelligence support.
• “It is absurd to say that US forces are engaged in Libya for purely humanitarian missions,” wrote Fox News contributor and former State Department adviser Christian Whiton, on Friday. “Were this true, we would not be striking Tripoli directly, including repeated strikes on Qaddafi’s headquarters.”
• And from House Speaker John Boehner on Friday: “The White House’s suggestion that there are no ‘hostilities’ taking place in Libya defies rational thought.”
That doesn’t mean the War Powers Resolution itself is universally acclaimed. The sources cited above all dislike it at some level, and many legal experts suggest its check on presidential power to command the armed forces would not stand up in court. Previous presidents have circumvented or ignored it.
But Boehner, sensing that the administration's position is being greeted with either skepticism or ridicule, sought to seize the moral and political high ground. “Despite the constitutional concerns anyone may have with the statute, the War Powers Resolution is the law of the land and cannot simply be ignored,” he said Friday.
So, if Congress is mad and isn’t going to take it anymore, what are its options?