Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The War Powers Act

I first learned about the War Powers Act in law class at West Point. At the time I questioned its legality, but in the intervening years I'm come to think that the Founders would have approved of allowing the President to act immediately in a situation but would, in fact, have to get Congressional approval within a reasonable time. The presidency is not imperial, and being the Commander-in-Chief does not give the president unchecked authority to use the military however he wants. It's obvious--except, perhaps, for the most rabidly partisan--that the Founders intended that both the executive and the legislature would have a say in military operations, each in their own way. The War Powers Act seems to me to be reasonably in accord with that sentiment.

So what happens in two days?
This week, the War Powers Act confronts its moment of truth. Friday will mark the 60th day since President Obama told Congress of his Libyan campaign. According to the act, that declaration started a 60-day clock: If Obama fails to obtain congressional support for his decision within this time limit, he has only one option — end American involvement within the following 30 days...

His (Obama's) March 21 letter to Congress telling of the Libyan campaign stated that it was “consistent with the War Powers Resolution.” And his Justice Department issued an opinion that acknowledged the 60-day rule without questioning its constitutionality.

Why, then, hasn’t the president been pressing Congress to approve the war before the looming deadline? Because it’s easier to paper over the problem with new legal fictions pretending that the time limit doesn’t apply to this instance...

Once Obama crosses the Rubicon, future presidents will simply cite Libya when they unilaterally commit America to far more ambitious NATO campaigns.

Make no mistake: Obama is breaking new ground, moving decisively beyond his predecessors. George W. Bush gained congressional approval for his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bill Clinton acted unilaterally when he committed American forces to NATO’s bombing campaign in Kosovo, but he persuaded Congress to approve special funding for his initiative within 60 days. And the entire operation ended on its 78th day.

In contrast, Congress has not granted special funds for Libya since the bombing began, and the campaign is likely to continue beyond the 30-day limit set for termination of all operations.
I'm sure our friends on the left will explain to us how President Bush's presidency was "imperial" but President Obama's is something else--maybe they'll call it "practical" or something that sounds equally innocuous. Or maybe, after supporting it for almost 40 years, they'll say it's unconstitutional.


Rhymes With Right said...

What a pity there isn't enough moxie in Congress to impeach and remove Barry Hussein for violating the WPA with his Libyan war of choice.

MikeAT said...

Remember Darren, this is B Hussein Obama, so it's different ....

Don't agree with you on WPA and the Constitution. The Founders had the ambiguity in the specific powers (declare war vs Command in Chief, etc) but Congress is putting a preset limit on military/foreign policy. I believe the Founders would want Congress to get off it's dead ass, stop hearings on steroid use in MLB and handle the major issue they are paid for.

Hey Congress, you (notionally) represent the people so take a stand. You don't want the president to deploy forces to Lower Slovia, cut off funding. Unlike the current CinC, you will not be able to say "Present"....scary ain't it.