In just over a week, 60 days will have passed since the war in Libya began. But Congress has no plans to exercise its rights under the War Powers Act to either approve or stop the administration’s use of U.S. military forces to fight the army of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 allows the president to commit U.S. forces for 60 days without the explicit authorization of Congress, with another 30 days allowed for the withdrawal of those forces.
“The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to a declaration of war, a specific statutory authorization, or a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces,” the law states.
But the administration won’t be immediately pressed to follow the law if nobody in Congress intends to enforce it. Both leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told The Cable on Tuesday that there are no plans for Senate action on the war in Libya — before or after the deadline.
“I’m not hearing from my colleagues that they feel the War Powers situation is currently in play because we’re deferring to NATO,” committee chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) told The Cable. Kerry had been working on a resolution with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) but the text was never finalized. ~Josh Rogin
Whatever some members of the Senate may feel about it, supporting NATO attacks on Libya with Predator drones, refueling, and logistics means that the U.S. is very much involved in ongoing hostilities against the armed forces of another state. It’s not as if American involvement in the war ended at the start of April. For Kerry to claim otherwise is ridiculous. The Libyan war continues to be the largest U.S. military intervention since Panama that has not received at least a formal vote on a resolution while it is still going on.
Obama deserves the overwhelming share of the blame for involving the U.S. in Libya, but with a few honorable exceptions members of Congress have been making it extremely easy for an unchecked executive to take whatever military action it wants around the world without the slightest protest from Congress. There has been nothing resembling oversight or the exercise of Congress’ appropriate and vital role in determining when the United States wages war against another state. By the end of next week, it will be undeniable that the Libyan war is simply illegal under U.S. law. What will be equally obvious is how completely indifferent the Congress and much of the public is to this gross abuse of power.