Foreign Affairs panel to hold hearing on Libya, war powers authority

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear testimony next week from House members on whether Congress needs to provide explicit authorization for continued military operations in Libya.

The Wednesday hearing comes amid confusion over how the role of U.S. forces in Libya might change in light of the War Powers Act (WPA), which allows the president to commit forces into action without congressional approval for 60 days when faced with a national emergency due to an attack on the United States. While some have said the WPA could not be used to justify military action in Libya because there was no immediate threat to the U.S., the WPA is nonetheless widely seen as providing the legal guidelines for the Libya operation.

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With the expiration of the 60-day period Friday, some members say additional military activities would require congressional approval. House Foreign Affairs staff said members with legislative proposals will be able to make their case in the May 25 committee hearing.

While the committee did not have a final list of members who will testify, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is known to be preparing a related bill, and could testify. Others with legislative proposals include Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), whose bill would reform the WPA, and Rep. Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.), whose resolution calls on President Obama to seek congressional approval for actions in Libya.

Many members of Congress had been looking for more clarity on the situation in Libya during Obama's Thursday speech laying out his administration's Middle East and North Africa policy. But Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) echoed the views of many that Obama left many of these questions unanswered.

"On Libya, after almost 60 days of U.S. involvement, we have no further clarity on our priorities, goals, and the anticipated extent of our commitment there," she said.

Obama's general remarks left some wondering whether the administration would actively seek congressional approval for further actions in Libya, or whether Congress might have to force Obama's hand by passing a measure dictating the extent of military involvement.

But Congress may not have the appetite for the latter. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said the Senate is not likely to support a resolution withdrawing troops from Libya, as some Democrats believe congressional authorization is not necessary.

-- This post was updated at 1:45 p.m.