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White House Responds to Criticisms on Libya

Dan Robinson | White House June 16, 2011

The White House pushed back Thursday on criticisms from members of Congress of a lengthy explanation sent to Capitol Hill about the legality of U.S. involvement in military operations in Libya.

In its more than 30 page submission to Congress, the White House again asserted that the War Powers Resolution of 1973 does not apply to U.S. involvement in what is now a largely NATO-led military operation in Libya.

The 1973 War Powers Resolution prohibits the military from being involved in actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization, with a 30-day extension. Operations in Libya are nearing the 90 day point.

The administration document contained details about a range of operations U.S. forces are involved in, including Libya but also Afghanistan, Iraq as well as peacekeeping operations in Kosovo.

President Obama described U.S. involvement in Libya as a supporting role, though he mentioned strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in support of NATO operations protecting civilians from actions by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

On Thursday, Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Reprentatives John Boehner made clear he doesn't accept the White House explanation that the Libya mission is not endangering the U.S. military and therefore does not require formal approval by Congress.

"The White House says there are no hostilities taking place," said Boehner. "Yet we have got drone attacks underway, we are spending $10 million a day, we're part of an effort to drop bombs on Gadhafi's compounds. It doesn't past the straight face test in my view that we are not in the midst of hostilities."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Obama "simply disagrees", and revealed that the president, who is a constitutional lawyer, was directly involved in drafting the legal explanation and in Carney's words, "owns this document."

Carney repeated the administration's position that it is in compliance with the War Powers Resolution, because no U.S. ground troops are involved, and U.S. forces are not engaged in the kind of hostilities envisioned by the resolution.

On a potential step by Congressman Boehner to pursue legislative steps to cut off funding for Libyan operations, Carney urged lawmakers not to "send mixed messages" about the importance of a mission the White House asserts has so far been successful.

"That success is something that members of Congress, even those who have concern, would acknowledge, and the importance of continuing that mission is I think something that a majority of Congress supports," said Carney.

House Minority Leader, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, said she was still reviewing the classified portion of the administration's report, but said she is satisfied with Mr. Obama's explanation of the limited nature of current U.S. involvement in Libya.

"I believe the limited nature of this engagement allows the president to go forward," said Pelosi.

The White House said again on Thursday that the administration would support a resolution by or one similar to a measure Republican Senator John McCain and Democrat John Kerry plan to introduce that would authorize limited use of military force in Libya.

McCain on Thursday challenged what he called a "confusing" approach by the administration on Libya, but urged lawmakers including members of his own party not to withdraw support for the NATO operation.

"The goal for all of us here in this body, Democrats and Republican alike, should not be to cut and run from Libya, but to assure that we succeed," said McCain.

Senator McCain said the bipartisan resolution would be introduced soon, adding it is important for the U.S. Senate to "go on record" as authorizing operations in Libya, which he said do constitute a "state of hostilities."



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