Friday, June 24, 2011

The dispute between Obama and Congress over Libya and the War Powers Resolution-Who is right?

You have probably heard about the uproar in Congress from both Republicans and Democrats over the issue of U.S. involvement in the Libya and whether Obama has violated the War Powers Resolution.  The War Powers Resolution (WPR) is a Vietnam-era statute that requires the U.S. president to:

  1. Consult with Congress when deploying U.S. armed forces in certain circumstances; 
  2. Give Congress a formal report within 48 hours of certain deployments; and 
  3. Withdraw those forces within 60 days of that report if Congress has not authorized the deployment in the interim or at least extended that deadline (though the President can have an additional 30 days to effectuate the withdrawal if necessary).
The sixty day limit passed more than a month ago and Obama has not withdrawn the troops or sought Congressional approval to continue American involvement in the Libya conflict. 

The White House asserts that the WPR clock stopped running on April 7, when NATO took charge of operations and the United States reverted to a primarily (though not exclusively) supporting role. More specifically, the White House contends that in light of these circumstances U.S. armed forces no longer can be said to be engaged in “hostilities” within the meaning of the WPR (“hostilities” being the key term in this context for keeping the clock running).   Congress disagrees.

As of now, there doesn’t seem to be any real consensus on who is right about on the issue of whether WPR applies and there appears to be little likelihood that the matter will end up in court.

Today, the House in a rebuke to President Obama, rejected a resolution that would have authorized continued U.S. military operations in Libya for one year. However, a bill to defund military operations in Libya with only a few exceptions failed by a vote of 180 for to 238 against.  Most Republicans voted in favor and most Democrats voted against.  The issue will most likely never be brought to the floor in the Senate so the House votes are primarily symbolic.

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