Stephanie Hessler
President Obama has distorted the plain meaning of a war powers statute to reach the conclusion that he does not need Congressional authorization for the military operation in Libya. Regardless of ones views on the Libyan mission, this legal tactic undermines the rule of law.

The War Powers Resolution, a 1973 law, requires the President to report to Congress "in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced...into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances." The statute requires the President to "terminate any use of United States Armed Forces" within 60 days after hostilities begin unless Congress authorized the action. It allows for an additional 30-day extension for termination if there is no congressional consent after the 60-day mark.

On March 19th, the President ordered US armed forces to commence a military assault in Libya. Recognizing the obvious fact that the War Powers Resolution had been triggered, President Obama sent a letter to Congress on March 21st to comply with the law and explain his military action. But since then, he has failed to seek congressional approval, and meanwhile the 90-day extension deadline passed this Sunday.

As the deadline approached, President Obama had two valid options. He could ask for Congress's consent on Libya or he could have determined that the War Powers Resolution unconstitutionally infringes on his commander-in-chief powers. He did neither.

Instead, he made the implausible claim that he does not need Congress’s consent because United States Armed Forces are no longer engaged in "hostilities."

This will surely come as a shock to the service members deployed to Libya. The United States military has been bombing Muammar al-Qaddafi's compound; our bombing campaign has involved thousands of sorties; we have been firing missiles from drone aircrafts; we have helped target and destroy regime forces; our military has struck at Libyan air defenses; we provide aerial refueling to NATO forces; and we are supplying key intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to our allies. According to the Obama administration, we have provided “unique assets and capabilities” that are "critical" to NATO’s operation. The cost of this is 10 million dollars a day with an estimated bill of 1.1 billion by the end of September.


Stephanie Hessler

Stephanie Hessler is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute. She served as a constitutional lawyer for the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she advised on terrorist-detention policy.