White House defends Obama's authority to launch strikes in Libya

President Obama has the authority to launch military action in Libya without express approval from Congress, the White House said Monday.

Top administration officials defended Obama from criticism from both the left and the right that the president needed to ask for a declaration of war from Congress before launching military action against Libya and its leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

"[T]his is a limited, in terms of scope, duration and task, operation, which does fall in the president’s authorities," said Tom Donilon, the president's national security adviser, on Air Force One on Monday.

"[T]he circumstances arose with the passage of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, the night before a congressional recess," Donilon explained. "So he did, even with that, call Congress, those who remained in town on Friday and those who are out of town, on the phone to consult with them."

Obama faced criticism from liberals in Congress for having launched strikes over the weekend without having asked first for a declaration of war. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) suggested that the president could even face impeachment for his strike.

Obama faces critics to his right, too. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also called for a declaration of war. And House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that Obama must detail for lawmakers the U.S. role in Libya before proceeding further with military action.

The president met on Friday with congressional leaders at the White House to brief them about the situation in Libya. Obama confirmed U.S. involvement in military operations there on Saturday.

Donilon said that consultations with lawmakers continued through Sunday, and said that the administration has been clear in detailing the scope of the mission in Libya.

"So this is very much, from our perspective — we take on that responsibility for keeping the Congress fully informed as to what we are pursuing — is the first point," Donilon said. "The second is that with respect to the actions that we've taken right now, I think — and the military actions — it is absolutely important to have great clarity on what that is, and I think that we have done that."

Uodated 2:03 p.m.