A few days ago, on March 22, President Barack Obama informed Congress formally about his unilateral decision to assist in the coalition of nations protecting rebel forces and civilians in Libya from attack from Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s loyalist troops. In the formal letter, reprinted in USA Today, the president used as justification the War Powers Resolution. But said resolution is very specific in the conditions under which a president can involve the nation’s armed forces in a conflict against other nations without Congressional consent. Some wonder if Obama exceeded his authority.
According to the War Powers Resolution, the specific circumstances under which the president can continue an act of war are such that:
“…within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 4(a)(1), 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.”
Although many have interpreted the resolution to mean that the president has to simply notify Congress within 60 days after committing armed forces to an action, it actually requires a bit more. A report of the use of force in an undeclared war situation is required, then the president has 60 days within which he has the aforementioned options available.
Although several congressmen, including as many as nine Democrats, are questioning President Obama’s commitment of American force in Libya, and several are even questioning whether or not he should be impeached, it must be noted that, according to the War Powers Resolution, the president has yet to have done anything impeachable or against the Rule of Law. As long as “the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted” within that 60-day window, he will not be required to have authorization from Congress or a declaration of war with which to legally continue the use of force against Libya.
President Obama came under fire from detractors almost immediately after an attack by French, American, and British forces commenced against Libya on March 19. However, what may be more surprising is that members of the opposition are among those within his own Democratic Party.
Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, questioned the Constitutionality of Obama’s actions, calling the enforcement of the Libyan no-fly zone an “impeachable offense.” In a letter to his colleagues on March 22, he wrote that the president’s non-consultation of Congress was a “clear subversion of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives only Congress the power to declare war.”
But Kucinich has since backed away from his call for impeachment, noting that there was no desire from the leaders of either party to pursue impeachment proceedings.
Although he has called for the President to further explain his actions, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has not mentioned impeachment proceedings.
During the previous administration, Kucinich pressed for the impeachment of both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over the invasion of Iraq, but was blocked by Democratic Party leaders.
As noted, President Obama seems to have broken no laws. Yet.