The president is in violation of the War Powers Act

When American presidents send troops into combat, they have 60 days before Congress–to whom the Constitution gives the power to declare war–needs to act to authorize the action.  Friday was 60 days after we got involved in the war in Libya.  Congress doesn’t seem to care.

President Obama missed a legal deadline Friday — set in a 1973 law — that required him to obtain congressional approval for U.S. military operations in Libya.

Friday was the 60th day since Obama formally notified Congress that U.S. planes would strike targets in Libya, a bid to protect civilians from the government of strongman Moammar Gaddafi. Under the Nixon-era War Powers Resolution, the president must obtain congressional authorization of military action within 60 days or else begin withdrawing forces.

Neither happened. Instead, in a letter sent Friday night to congressional leaders, Obama expressed support for a proposed resolution that “would confirm that Congress supports the U.S. mission in Libya.”

The president also described U.S. military efforts as “supporting” and “more limited” than in the campaign’s early days. He said they include providing logistical and intelligence help to the NATO-led operation, as well as supplying aircraft and unmanned drones to attack Libyan targets.

Obama did not, however, explicitly say whether he thinks the War Powers Resolution applies to the Libyan operation. That act makes no specific exception for limited or supporting action: It applies to any instance in which military forces are “introduced into hostilities,” or sent into foreign territory or airspace while equipped for combat.

Congressional leaders have showed little desire to challenge Obama on the deadline.

via Obama misses deadline for congressional approval of Libya operations – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    Weak, weak, weak. And if there’s any truth to this:
    http://www.thespoof.com/news/magazine/shocking_inside_look_at_bin_laden_take_down_obama_so_paralyzed_with_fear_and_indecision_panetta_made_the_decision_in_palace_coup_9211.htm (you gotta love the inflammatory title) he didn’t even care.

  • SKPeterson

    Weak, weak, weak. And if there’s any truth to this:
    http://www.thespoof.com/news/magazine/shocking_inside_look_at_bin_laden_take_down_obama_so_paralyzed_with_fear_and_indecision_panetta_made_the_decision_in_palace_coup_9211.htm (you gotta love the inflammatory title) he didn’t even care.

  • Joe

    I am really not sure how the Act could not apply. We are still enforcing the no-fly zone by bombing stuff aren’t we?

  • Joe

    I am really not sure how the Act could not apply. We are still enforcing the no-fly zone by bombing stuff aren’t we?

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Isn’t it technically Congress who is in violation?

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Isn’t it technically Congress who is in violation?

  • Carl Vehse

    It’s Bush’s fault.

  • Carl Vehse

    It’s Bush’s fault.

  • Tom Hering

    John @ 3, yes. But I suppose it serves the purpose of making the President look bad.

  • Tom Hering

    John @ 3, yes. But I suppose it serves the purpose of making the President look bad.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Obama’s not alone in disregarding this; I’m pretty sure no president since the War Powers Act was passed has actually accepted it as a valid limitation upon his war-making authority. For it to be actually deemed unconstitutional or constitutionally binding on the presidency it would have to go to the courts, and so far neither a president nor a Congress has been willing to push things that far. So presidents do just enough to show some respect for the act, and Congresses for the most part are satisfied with that.

  • http://www.christlutheran.net Jeff Samelson

    Obama’s not alone in disregarding this; I’m pretty sure no president since the War Powers Act was passed has actually accepted it as a valid limitation upon his war-making authority. For it to be actually deemed unconstitutional or constitutionally binding on the presidency it would have to go to the courts, and so far neither a president nor a Congress has been willing to push things that far. So presidents do just enough to show some respect for the act, and Congresses for the most part are satisfied with that.

  • Carl Vehse

    Barry had other problems to worry about. His armored limo got stuck on the driveway leaving the Dublin Embassy.

  • Carl Vehse

    Barry had other problems to worry about. His armored limo got stuck on the driveway leaving the Dublin Embassy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Remember, kids, if you don’t go to The Drudge Report, then Carl Vehse will bring The Drudge Report to you. No matter what topic you were discussing.

    Also, SK (@1), “if there’s any truth to this”?! Um … emoticons? Please?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Remember, kids, if you don’t go to The Drudge Report, then Carl Vehse will bring The Drudge Report to you. No matter what topic you were discussing.

    Also, SK (@1), “if there’s any truth to this”?! Um … emoticons? Please?

  • Joe

    John @ 3- How is congress in violation? they are not required to give their approval after the Pres gives them notice. If they don’t approve, the President is required to withdraw the troops or stop the action. Absent congressional approval the President gets 60 days. If the congress is silent – he does not have their approval.

  • Joe

    John @ 3- How is congress in violation? they are not required to give their approval after the Pres gives them notice. If they don’t approve, the President is required to withdraw the troops or stop the action. Absent congressional approval the President gets 60 days. If the congress is silent – he does not have their approval.

  • Tom Hering

    The President is justified in taking the silence of Congress as tacit consent. This Congress has, in the past, always voiced its opposition.

  • Tom Hering

    The President is justified in taking the silence of Congress as tacit consent. This Congress has, in the past, always voiced its opposition.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom said (@10), “The President is justified in taking the silence of Congress as tacit consent.” You mean in your personal opinion, or according to the War Powers Resolution? Because, frankly, it isn’t according to the latter:

    Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted [within 48 hours after the President orders our troops into action] or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 1543 (a)(1) of this title, whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress
    (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces,
    (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or
    (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States. Such sixty-day period shall be extended for not more than an additional thirty days if the President determines and certifies to the Congress in writing that unavoidable military necessity respecting the safety of United States Armed Forces requires the continued use of such armed forces in the course of bringing about a prompt removal of such forces.

    Ain’t no “tacit consent” allowed for there that I can read.

    Of course, unless Congress decides to do something about this and make it a question of the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution, not a whole lot’s going to happen, regardless.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom said (@10), “The President is justified in taking the silence of Congress as tacit consent.” You mean in your personal opinion, or according to the War Powers Resolution? Because, frankly, it isn’t according to the latter:

    Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted [within 48 hours after the President orders our troops into action] or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 1543 (a)(1) of this title, whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress
    (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces,
    (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or
    (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States. Such sixty-day period shall be extended for not more than an additional thirty days if the President determines and certifies to the Congress in writing that unavoidable military necessity respecting the safety of United States Armed Forces requires the continued use of such armed forces in the course of bringing about a prompt removal of such forces.

    Ain’t no “tacit consent” allowed for there that I can read.

    Of course, unless Congress decides to do something about this and make it a question of the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution, not a whole lot’s going to happen, regardless.

  • Tom Hering

    Yes, in my personal opinion.

  • Tom Hering

    Yes, in my personal opinion.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, Tom (@12), Obama’s not in violation of your personal opinion. But he does appear to be in violation of the War Powers Resolution, yes?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, Tom (@12), Obama’s not in violation of your personal opinion. But he does appear to be in violation of the War Powers Resolution, yes?

  • Tom Hering

    How can he be in violation if he’s not really the President? If he’s really in violation, he’s really the President.

  • Tom Hering

    How can he be in violation if he’s not really the President? If he’s really in violation, he’s really the President.

  • steve

    I don’t think a guy who ran on change and transparency, and against Bush-era military interventionism, wants to go on the record with the excuse “no other President really recognized the limitations of the War Powers Act.” Technically Constitutional or not, Obama likes to make his case in the court of public opinion and that excuse may not fly. His best tactic is to just drop it and hope everyone else does too.

    “Look, Oprah’s leaving! It’s the end of the world! Libya’s not important, it’s Syria. No, the Palestinians. No, Iran! In this time where people in the south are without homes and shelter and the Mississippi is flooding, do we really want to engage in politics as usual?” Yep, sounds good. Let’s roll with it.

  • steve

    I don’t think a guy who ran on change and transparency, and against Bush-era military interventionism, wants to go on the record with the excuse “no other President really recognized the limitations of the War Powers Act.” Technically Constitutional or not, Obama likes to make his case in the court of public opinion and that excuse may not fly. His best tactic is to just drop it and hope everyone else does too.

    “Look, Oprah’s leaving! It’s the end of the world! Libya’s not important, it’s Syria. No, the Palestinians. No, Iran! In this time where people in the south are without homes and shelter and the Mississippi is flooding, do we really want to engage in politics as usual?” Yep, sounds good. Let’s roll with it.

  • Cincinnatus

    John@3 and Tom @…several places: It is the President who is in violation here. The War Powers Resolution was an attempt to recover (or, depending upon how you look at it, to weaken) a constitutional provision that intentionally shackles executive power: the power of war-making is exclusively vested in the legislative branch. The President and his subordinates unilaterally executed military action in Libya and they have unilaterally continued such action beyond any legal authority to do so. The President and his executive branch are thus unilaterally in violation of both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution.

    That said, Congress, for the past two decades at least, has exhibited almost no interest in preserving its war-making powers. If Congress seriously wanted to reign in the power of the President, they would do something. On the other hand, what could they do? They handicapped themselves 40 years ago with the passage of the WPR–because what can Congress do to end a military engagement that has been ongoing for 60 days already?

    In short, Congress needs cajones, but the President needs to read the Constitution. If this action goes unchecked, we’ve set a seriously bad precedent.

  • Cincinnatus

    John@3 and Tom @…several places: It is the President who is in violation here. The War Powers Resolution was an attempt to recover (or, depending upon how you look at it, to weaken) a constitutional provision that intentionally shackles executive power: the power of war-making is exclusively vested in the legislative branch. The President and his subordinates unilaterally executed military action in Libya and they have unilaterally continued such action beyond any legal authority to do so. The President and his executive branch are thus unilaterally in violation of both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution.

    That said, Congress, for the past two decades at least, has exhibited almost no interest in preserving its war-making powers. If Congress seriously wanted to reign in the power of the President, they would do something. On the other hand, what could they do? They handicapped themselves 40 years ago with the passage of the WPR–because what can Congress do to end a military engagement that has been ongoing for 60 days already?

    In short, Congress needs cajones, but the President needs to read the Constitution. If this action goes unchecked, we’ve set a seriously bad precedent.


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