Reality Check: The President's Authority In Libya

By Ben Swann email | bio

(FOX19) - On March 17, 2011, U.S. forces began enforcing a no fly zone over Libya and conducting air-strikes.

At the time, President Obama said that U.S. forces were acting to prevent the massacre of thousands of innocent people at the hands of Muammar al Qaddafi.  The mission, the President said, would last days, not weeks. 

But more than 2 months later, while visiting Great Britain, President Obama said, "We will not relent until the people of Libya are protected, and the shadow of tyranny is lifted."

There is a major legal problem with all of this.  The bombing of sites in Libya began 74 days ago.  The War Powers Act of 1973 states that "within sixty calendar days... the president shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces, unless the Congress has declared war, has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, has extended by law such sixty-day period or is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States.

None of those things have happened.  And yet, the attacks in Libya continue.

"I don't think that the President had the authority to go into Libya. and when I watched the remarks that he made today with the Prime Minister of England, it sounded like to me that he had made a decision that we are all in this together."  Said Republican Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana.

So who is in and who is out?

Apparently the members of the House of Representatives are out.  Thursday, the members of the House overwhelmingly voted to bar using ground forces in Libya by a vote of 416 to 5.  Even so, barring the use of taxpayer dollars for ground forces does not address the issue of U.S. involvement. 

On the other hand, in the Senate, there is a bi-partisan support for the mission in Libya.   A letter has been signed by some Senate Democrats and Republicans, supporting limited U.S. involvement in Libya for the purpose of removing Muammar al Qaddafi from power.  Among those supporting that action, Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John McCain.

On May 20th, President Obama wrote a letter to congressional leaders suggesting that the role is now so "limited" he does not need to seek congressional approval.  Especially since this is a NATO led effort.  Even so, it's still our troops, our weapons, our drones, our planes and our tax dollars.

The President has asked Congress to approve military action but the President has not slowed or stopped while waiting for that approval.

Here's what you need to know.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid had already said that the vote on Libya would not happen before the Memorial Day recess, which began when senators left last week and is scheduled to run through June 5.  Even so, no one in congress, with the exception of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas really seem anxious to make their voice heard on this.

The bottom-line, the Constitution does not simply give Congress the right to weigh in on war, it lays on them the responsibility to approve or deny U.S. involvement.

And that is Reality Check.


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