Monday, May 30, 2011

Toothless War Powers

Last Friday, the calendar hit 60 days since the White House notified Congress of military action against Libya under the War Powers Act, which requires Congress to authorize U.S. military action. It was another reminder that law has few teeth to force a President's hand.

The White House finally sent a letter to Congressional leaders about the mission, which never once mentioned the "War Powers" angle, but did urge a vote on a resolution supporting the NATO/UN mission.

"Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment to this remarkable international effort," wrote the President.

"It has always been my view that it is better to take military action, even in limited actions such as this, with Congressional engagement, consultation, and support," President Obama added.

Technically - because Congress did not act to authorize that military action - the President is required to withdraw U.S. forces over the next thirty days.

But don't hold your breath - there have been other Presidents who have ignored the War Powers law as well.

In 1982, President Reagan sent troops to Lebanon and - just like President Obama - notified Congress about this under the auspices of the War Powers Act.

Back in 1999, President Clinton ordered air strikes against Yugoslavia without any War Powers authorization from the Congress.

Weeks later, over twenty members of Congress went to court, arguing that it violated the War Powers law.

Back then, the Republican House actually defeated legislation to authorize the air strikes, as it died on a 213-213 tie vote.

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