Ten days ago, on June 4th speaker Boehner gave President Obama some breathing room. A privileged resolution introduced by a member of his own party Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) directing the President, to remove U.S. armed forces from Libya was pulled from the floor at the last minute by Speaker Boehner because it was about to pass.
Instead Boehner offered a resolution that directed the president to explain “in detail” the U.S.’s “security interests and objectives” that justify supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s bombing campaign against Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The resolution gave the President two weeks to reply . Boehner’s resolution passed the House by a vote of 268 to 145
Those two weeks are over this Friday. And the speaker wants answers. He sent a letter to the President warning Obama that he will clearly will be in violation of the 1973 War Powers Act as of this weekend as the POTUS did not seek congressional consent for the operation within 60 days of the March 19 U.S. air strikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
“Either you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution,” Boehner wrote. “The House and the American people whom we represent deserve to know the determination you have made.”
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Boehner pointed out that the that the administration provided briefings for lawmakers but he never sought formal authorization. Seeking an explanation, he asked Obama for answers to constitutional and statutory questions by Friday.
The White House maintains that it has been in compliance with the War Powers Act and has called the Boehner resolution unhelpful and unnecessary. But the truth is Boehner’s resolution saved the President from an earlier showdown.
On the Senate side, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John (why the long face) Kerry, D-Mass has been trying to pass a resolution in support of the action, but the resolution, officially known as the Please Will You Make Me Secretary of State When Hilary Quits act of 2011, hasn’t yet made it out of committee.
Separately Jim Webb, D-Va., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., introduced a resolution last week, similar to the Boehner bill in the house that demands Obama seek congressional consent for continued U.S. military involvement in Libya, provide a detailed justification for the decision to go to war.
Last week the White House will comply with the Boehner resolution but as of now there are only three working days left. A major confrontation is brewing.
Boehner’s full letter follow:
June 14, 2011
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Five days from now, our country will reach the 90-day mark from the notification to Congress regarding the commencement of the military operation in Libya, which began on March 18, 2011. On June 3, 2011, the House passed a resolution which, among other provisions, made clear that the Administration has not asked for, nor received, Congressional authorization of the mission in Libya. Therefore, it would appear that in five days, the Administration will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless it asks for and receives authorization from Congress or withdraws all U.S. troops and resources from the mission.
Since the mission began, the Administration has provided tactical operational briefings to the House of Representatives, but the White House has systematically avoided requesting a formal authorization for its action. It has simultaneously sought, however, to portray that its actions are consistent with the War Powers Resolution. The combination of these actions has left many Members of Congress, as well as the American people, frustrated by the lack of clarity over the Administration’s strategic policies, by a refusal to acknowledge and respect the role of the Congress, and by a refusal to comply with the basic tenets of the War Powers Resolution.
You took an oath before the American people on January 20, 2009 in which you swore to “faithfully execute the Office of President” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The Constitution requires the President to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” and one of those laws is the War Powers Resolution, which requires an approving action by Congress or withdrawal within 90 days from the notification of a military operation. Given the mission you have ordered to the U.S. Armed Forces with respect to Libya and the text of the War Powers Resolution, the House is left to conclude that you have made one of two determinations: either you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya, or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution. The House, and the American people whom we represent, deserve to know the determination you have made.
Therefore, on behalf of the institution and the American people, I must ask you the following questions: Have you or your Administration conducted the legal analysis to justify your position as to whether your Administration views itself to be in compliance with the War Powers Resolution so that it may continue current operations, absent formal Congressional support or authorization, once the 90-day mark is reached? Assuming you conducted that analysis, was it with the consensus view of all stakeholders of the relevant Departments in the Executive branch? In addition, has there been an introduction of a new set of facts or circumstances which would have changed the legal analysis the Office of Legal Counsel released on April 1, 2011? Given the gravity of the constitutional and statutory questions involved, I request your answer by Friday, June 17, 2011.
From the beginning, the House of Representatives has sought to balance two equal imperatives regarding Libya which have been in direct contradiction: the House of Representatives takes seriously America’s leadership role in the world; our country’s interests in the region; and the commitments to and from its steadfast allies. At the same time, strong concern and opposition exists to the use of military force when the military mission, by design, cannot secure a U.S. strategic policy objective. The ongoing, deeply divisive debate originated with a lack of genuine consultation prior to commencement of operations and has been further exacerbated by the lack of visibility and leadership from you and your Administration.
I respect your authority as Commander-in-Chief, though I remain deeply concerned the Congress has not been provided answers from the Executive branch to fundamental questions regarding the Libya mission necessary for us to fulfill our equally important Constitutional responsibilities. I believe in the moral leadership our country can and should exhibit, especially during such a transformational time in the Middle East. I sincerely hope the Administration will faithfully comply with the War Powers Resolution and the requests made by the House of Representatives, and that you will use your unique authority as our President to engage the American people regarding our mission in Libya.
John A. Boehner