White House on War Powers Deadline: ‘Limited’ US Role in Libya Means No Need to Get Congressional Authorization

May 20, 2011 7:14pm

In an effort to satisfy those arguing he needs to seek congressional authorization to continue US military activity in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, President Obama wrote a letter to congressional leaders this afternoon suggesting that the role is now so “limited” he does not need to seek congressional approval.

“Since April 4,” the president wrote, “U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition's efforts.”

A senior administration official told ABC News that the letter is intended to describe “a narrow US effort that is intermittent and principally an effort to support to support the ongoing NATO-led and UN-authorized civilian support mission and no fly zone.”

“The US role is one of support,” the official said, “and the kinetic pieces of that are intermittent.”

From the beginning of the U.S. military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration has cited the 1973 War Powers Act as the legal basis of its ability to conduct military activities for 60 days without first seeking a declaration of war from Congress. The military intervention started on March 19; Congress was notified on March 21. Those 60 days expire today.

The president thanked the congressional leaders – House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky — for the support that they have “demonstrated for this mission and for our brave service members, as well as your strong condemnation of the Qaddafi regime.”

The president voiced support for a bipartisan resolution drafted by Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., John McCain, R-Ariz., Carl Levin, D-Mich., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., stating that Congress “supports the U.S. mission in Libya and that both branches are united in their commitment to supporting the aspirations of the Libyan people for political reform and self-government…Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment to this remarkable international effort.”

Earlier this month, Kerry – who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – described his resolution as “in limbo.”

-Jake Tapper

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