If the circumstances were different — a Republican in the White House — House Speaker John Boehner almost surely would be arguing that the president has no need to gain the authorization of Congress to continue military actions in Libya. So it has gone since passage of the War Powers Resolution in 1973. Democrats and Republicans have made the expedient case. Now President Barack Obama has followed the familiar path.
The president responded to a letter from Boehner asking for a legal explanation of why the White House has failed to seek congressional approval. The War Powers Resolution allows the president to engage the armed forces for 60 days to 90 days before gaining authorization. The 60 days passed on May 20. The president issued his own letter accompanied by a 32-page report, essentially arguing that American forces no longer are involved in “hostilities” at the level necessary to invoke the deadline in the law.
No question, the Obama White House made the right choice by intervening with other countries in Libya. Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator, promised nothing short of a massacre in the rebel city of Benghazi. As the mission deepened, the president made the wrong choice in failing to seek congressional authorization.
The way our government is structured, going to war should be a shared decision, Congress and the White House joining in a powerful expression of consensus, the choice involving more than a single executive.
Akron Beacon Journal (June 23)