White House argues it is in compliance with law on Libya

President Obama has acted consistently with the War Powers Resolution in the military mission in Libya because the U.S. has not taken a lead role in the operations there, the White House contended Wednesday in a report to Congress.

Senior administration officials said that the president is not challenging the constitutionality of the resolution and instead maintained that because the U.S. is acting in a support role with no troops on the ground, no war authorization is necessary.

ADVERTISEMENT
One administration official explained that the U.S. is "not engaged in any of the activities that typically over the years in war powers analysis is considered to constitute hostilities within the meaning of the statute." 

"We're not engaged in sustained fighting," the official said. "There's been no exchange of fire with hostile forces. We don't have troops on the ground. We don't risk casualties to those troops. None of the factors, frankly, speaking more broadly, has risked the sort of escalation that Congress was concerned would impinge on its war-making power."

When the Libya mission began, the U.S. took part in air strikes, but officials said it then moved into a supporting role that represented a “limited and constrained mission.”

The officials stressed that the administration has and will continue to try to consult with and brief Congress as the mission continues.

The White House sent the report in response to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who on Tuesday warned the president he would be in violation of the War Powers Resolution on Sunday because he had not received congressional authorization for the Libyan mission.

ADVERTISEMENT
The 1973 War Powers Resolution requires presidents to get congressional approval for military operations within 60 days, or withdraw forces within the next 30. Congress has not authorized the current operations in Libya.

The White House has faced pressure from the political right and left over Libya, with Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) leading a group of 10 lawmakers on Wednesday in filing suit against the administration over the Libyan war.

“With regard to the war in Libya, we believe that the law was violated. We have asked the courts to move to protect the American people from the results of these illegal policies,” Kucinich said in a statement.

White House press secretary Jay Carney pushed back at critics. He and other officials said that the mission in Libya is succeeding, and that it is “important for Congress not to send mixed signals about a goal… we all share.”

Administration officials vehemently defended Obama’s actions, saying the president had saved “potentially” thousands of lives.

The White House has repeatedly argued that it prevented a great tragedy in Libya by entering the conflict, which it contends prevented Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi from crushing rebels opposing his rule and killing thousands of innocent civilians.

One official on Tuesday said Obama had acted “at a time of great and growing crisis and urgency.”

Failure to act at that time, the official said, “would have been gravely damaging to the future of Libya, the region and U.S. interests.”

More in Administration

White House budget office holds call to prepare for shutdown

Read more »