Obama and the War Powers Act

As the U.S. military campaign in Libya approaches the 60-day mark this Friday, six Republican senators wrote President Obama asking if he will comply with the War Powers Act, which says Congress must authorize action that lasts more than 60 days.

The War Powers Act of 1973 states:

Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 4(a)(1), whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States.

As of 17 May 2011, armed forces from the United States will have been involved in military combat operations in Libya for 60 days. By that date, President Obama is required by statute to withdraw US Forces from Libya and cease all unpleasantness. Or, he could ask Congress to give him a resolution authorizing the use of force.

“Friday is the final day of the statutory sixty-day period for you to terminate the use of the United States Armed Forces in Libya under the War Powers Resolution. Last week some in your Administration indicated use of the United States Armed Forces will continue indefinitely, while others said you would act in a manner consistent with the War Powers Resolution. Therefore, we are writing to ask whether you intend to comply with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution. We await your response,” wrote the GOP senators Wednesday.

The letter was signed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

The GOP senators said they believe the president already violated part of the War Powers Act – which says the president’s constitutional powers allow him to only deploy troops into “hostilities” with a declaration of war, specific authorization from Congress or a national emergency caused by an attack on the U.S.

But the president did follow the provision in the 1973 law requiring him to provide information to Congress about committing U.S. forces. Now the question is whether he will abide by the part of the War Powers Act which says he must get Congressional permission within 60 days.

With a deadline of May 20th, the Senators can expect to hear nothing from the President on the matter. This administration has already shown that there are laws they support and laws they do not. This will be one that they do not.

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