June 20th, 2011
10:00 AM ET

Congress barking, not biting on War Powers

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations (where he blogs), co-author of "America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy" and a former director for global issues and multilateral affairs at the National Security Council.

By James M. Lindsay

Debate over Libya and the War Powers Resolution heated up over the weekend. The New York Times reported on Saturday that President Obama overruled the top lawyers in the Justice and Defense departments over whether the War Powers Resolution applies to the Libya operation. President Obama was, of course, within his rights to reject their advice. But the political optics of ignoring lawyers who usually get their way is always lousy. It was no surprise that Speaker Boehner’s spokesman responded to the New York Times story by arguing that the news “reinforces the need for the White House to answer the questions that Congress and the American people have about our involvement in Libya.”

So you can expect to hear a lot of sound and fury in the coming weeks on Capitol Hill about Libya. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) has offered a resolution that would formally “disapprove” of the Libya operation. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) has drafted language to allow spending on the Libyan mission only in order to end it. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) says he will introduce a resolution to cut off all military spending on Libya. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the number two Senate Democrat, and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) are sponsoring a bill that would support the Libya operation but set an end date of December 30 and bar sending U.S. ground troops.

Nothing significant will come of these legislative efforts. The most important War Powers news this weekend was probably the least reported. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on PBS’s “News Hour” Friday night that President Obama does not need congressional approval to continue U.S. military operations in Libya. His support, coupled with support from other Senate heavyweights such as John Kerry, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham, guarantees that anti-Libya legislation is going to die at the Senate’s door even if it makes it out of the House.

In short, President Obama doesn’t have to worry that Congress will stop the Libyan intervention anytime soon—even if a flurry of legislative activity and the accompanying breathless news coverage makes it seem otherwise. Not all barking dogs bite.

The views expressed in this post are solely those of James M. Lindsay. Check out his blog for more.

Post by:
Topics: Law • Libya • United States

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Onesmallvoice

    I guess that the idiots in Washington will never enforce the War Powers Act. In the end, they'll vote along with Obama to keep us in Libya indefinately. The fact that there's no opposition to this obscene war proves just how much control the MIC(military-industrial-complex) has over our government already.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  2. keepamericaalive

    Well as an american I am ashamed of our president. He does not show any integrity in what he is doing. He is a puppet of the UK to get Libya. We are supposed to set examples in the world but are ending up being War Mongers ourselves. If we keep going country to country starting wars do not be surprised one day when we see Russian, Chinese and Iranians bombing ourselves. He stands behind the statement OUR interests. What a joke he is. Flush the toilet we are in the crapper.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  3. fernace

    Why are we in Libya again? Oh yeah, NATO & the UN invited us to stand with the rest of the allied forces in the take down of Ghadafy's regime. He had threatened to kill 700,000 of Libyas citizens,if they didn't cease all rebel activities towards the government. It is a joint effort & if we, a world power,didn't agree it would send the wrong message to the world community. Talk about a bad foreign policy! The disenting politicians know this, but justwant to stir up negativity towards Obama. As far as I've read, the War Power Act has not been recognized by any president who wated to start military action. It is also un-fair to put blame on the current administation, for all the ongoing American occupations, when they inherited them from the last. I agree that war is horrific & we need to bring our troops home, but this "bi-partisan" group could have plenty of issues to occupy them, besides this. It is not a priority, education for our children & healthcare for all, is!!

    June 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  4. j. von hettlingen

    It all depends on how long the NATO mission lasts. The Norwegians are withdrawing in two months. The Brits will face financial problems if the mission goes on for another couple of more of months. The other NATO members are reluctant to participate. The Brits and the French are overworked!

    June 21, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  5. Observer1290

    Obama's time has come:


    June 21, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  6. samwitwicky

    Revolutions are internal matters of a country … the revolution in Gypto was successful internally … people were not killed, cities were not bombed, war was not raged, outside countries didn’t send their forces … whatever was done … it was within the country and by the people … without outside support … that’s a revolution.

    Look at the massacre they are carrying out in Tibby … you call that a revolution man … you call that an operation for the people?

    Read more:


    June 24, 2011 at 8:22 am |

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.