Obama is doing what he does best. Proceed with whatever he wants to do and if the law tells him he can’t do it, then just ignore it. This time he is doing it with the War Powers Act and his hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, is calling him, and Congress, out for their refusal to do what is necessary:
Obama is on the horns of a dilemma. As a candidate, he said the president does not have the power to go to war on his own except in cases of actual or likely attack. But if he were to ask Congress to authorize the Libyan intervention, he would probably be rebuffed. So he’s chosen to simply ignore the law.
But ignoring laws is not what presidents promise to do when they are sworn in. Unless Obama wants to make the case that it’s unconstitutional, as some experts think, he should act (belatedly) to follow it or explain why the Libya operations don’t qualify. The latter would be a stretch, but maybe Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to elaborate on his theory that Libya is merely a “limited kinetic action,” not a war.
Still, the fault here is not all Obama’s. He has reason to think a president can get away with taking unilateral military action, since Congress is usually reluctant to object. It’s easier for lawmakers to carp than to take action that involves shouldering responsibility for the ensuing outcome.
If Congress wants to assert itself on Libya, it always has the option to pass legislation cutting off funding for those operations, which have cost some $750 million so far. Or it could pass a resolution demanding that Obama pull out our forces. Either step would probably force the administration to turn over the mission to NATO.
Some argue about the constitutionality of the act, and it’s something that should be discussed, but nonetheless it’s the law of the land and Obama appears to be ignoring it. He did send a letter though asking for “support” but he did not mention the War Powers Act:
President Obama sent a letter late last week to congressional leaders endorsing a resolution being drafted in the Senate that expresses support for military action in Libya.
Whether the House debate would focus on a measure supportive or critical of the mission is unclear. Several members of the House, however, have introduced amendments that would restrict funding for the operation.
While Congress would be unlikely to vote down a resolution supporting a U.S. military mission, any measure of support is likely to face opposition from a group of liberals and conservatives who have said Obama erred by deploying the military without explicit congressional backing.
Will Congress push back this time and force him to comply with the WPA? If they do it would be the height of irony that the first challenge in court regarding the War Powers Act will be because of the actions of the man who criticized Bush’s wars….wars that DID have Congressional approval.
And this war does not.