Friday, May 27, 2011

libya: the ball's in Congress' court

Many commentators got all worked up that sixty days had passed since the start of the air operations in Libya. Some said the U.S. actions were illegal, since the War Powers Resolution sets a time limit on military operations absent authorization by Congress.

Well nobody expected the President to say, "Oops, I gotta obey the law," since no President ever has acknowledged the law as binding. Instead, President Obama did a clever -- and fully justified --thing. He sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to authorize the action.  He also said the Administration had been in consultations with some members and urged approval of a Kerry-McCain resolution, S. Res. 194. That measure is not binding law, but does express the sense of the Senate "support[ing] the limited use of military force  by the United States in Libya." It also endorses regime change in Tripoli, a goal broader than the official UN Security Council mandate.

Congress has done this often in the past, before and since the War Powers Resolution was enacted.It would be appropriate now as well.  I still believe that that law is Constitutional and binding, but I also recognize that Congress has often failed to assert its war powers.The Kerry-McCain resolution is a better-than-nothing way to play its proper role.  That resolution, by the way, has been held up by Senators who want votes on more extreme pro- and anti-war provisions. If any of them succeed, however, Congress will end up leaving executive power unchallenged.

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