House Republicans crafted legislation today that would authorize the U.S. military's continued involvement in the NATO-led campaign in Libya, heading off a rising wave of dissent from lawmakers seeking an end to the conflict.
The proposal came after Republicans emerged from a closed-door session aimed at finding a concensus on Congressional action towards the conflict. It would prohibit ground troops, a goal that President Obama has stated from the outset, and would require Obama to provide Congress with a detailed update in 14 days.
Yesterday, the House voted to shelve a bill sponsored by pacifist Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) that would have prevented the U.S. from continuing to participate in the campaign. Kucinich has objected from the start that that American participation is unconstitutional, and he suggested yesterday that his resolution would have had the votes to pass, something that members of both parties confirmed to the Associated Press.
Extending the sense of frustration at being shut out of Obama's decisions on Libya, 60 Republican representatives today threw their support behind a resolution that would express Congressional disapproval with the campaign.
Since the president engaged the United States in military action in Libya, he has not explained to Congress what the U.S.' role is, nor has he clearly outlined how that role will be carried out, said sponsor Mike Turner (R-OH). In the over 60 days since U.S. involvement began, we have watched our mission evolve considerably.
The constitution explicitly grants Congress the power to make war, and the 1973 War Powers Act sought to safeguard this authority by requiring the president to get Congressional approval 60 days after committing troops to combat -- today is day 73. Kucinich and Turner's bills both embody the belief that the president is acting unilaterally and exceeding his authority; critics argue that the president can only authorize military force to respond to direct attacks on Americans or shield them from harm. In a 2007 interview with journalist Charlie Savage, Obama seemed to endorse his critics' position when asked whether a president could hypothetically bomb Iran without Congressional approval.
The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation, Obama said.