As we’ve blogged about earlier, President Obama, in his participation in the war in Libya, has ignored the 60 day deadline for the engagement of American troops without Congressional approval as stipulated in the War Powers law. Now ten Congressmen, a coalition of both liberals and conservatives, has filed suit against the President. So the President has finally sent a message to Congress saying why he doesn’t need their approval:
Facing growing opposition on Capitol Hill, the White House insisted Wednesday that it’s within its legal rights to wage war in Libya without explicit authorization from Congress, essentially because no American lives are at risk.
The administration argued that its limited role in the allied air campaign against Libya means it’s not really the kind of escalating war that would require approval from Congress or an end to fighting after 60 days under the War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973 in response to the Vietnam War.
Even before the White House could send its arguments to Capitol Hill, 10 members of the House of Representatives – conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats – filed suit in U.S. District Court Wednesday challenging President Barack Obama’s right to wage the war, even if in a supporting role.
“We believe the law was violated,” said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, one of the effort’s leaders. “We have asked the courts to protect the American people from the results of these illegal policies.”
In a 32-page report to Congress, the White House laid out its argument.
“U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors,” the White House said.
“We’re now in a position where we’re operating in a support role,” said a senior Obama administration official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity under White House policy.
“We’re not engaged in sustained fighting. There’s been no exchange of fire with hostile forces. We don’t have troops on the ground. We don’t risk casualties to those troops. None of the factors, frankly, speaking more broadly, has risked the sort of escalation that Congress was concerned would impinge on its war-making power,” the official said.
The White House also warned Congress against questioning the U.S. commitment at a time when Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may be on his way out. “Now is not the time to send mixed messages,” said spokesman Jay Carney.
The White House report also said the U.S. has spent $716 million through June 3 on bombs and other supplies since helping launch the allied air campaign on March 19, a cost expected to rise to $1.1 billion by Sept. 30.
So we’ve blown up $716 million worth of bombs, but we’re not fighting? They aren’t hostilities when the other side can’t hurt our guys though we can just hurt them? Or when our forces are under NATO and UN command?
Since the Constitution places war-making power in the legislative body and not simply at the sole discretion of the commander-in-chief, I think a Supreme Court ruling would be helpful in clearly defining the parameters.