Joined by five Senate colleagues, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Friday questioning if the president intends to pull armed forces out of Libya once the 60-day legal limit expires.
According to the 1973 War Powers Resolution, the president can commit troops to hostilities without congressional approval for 60 days. After the statutory period ends, Congress must declare war or Mr. Obama must suspend military operations in Libya.
The deadline expires today.
“As recently as last week your administration indicated use of the United States Armed Forces will continue indefinitely,” the letter reads. “Therefore, we are writing to ask whether you intend to comply with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution. We await your response.”
The group of six GOP Senators aren’t the only critics asking tough question over whether Mr. Obama will respect the War Powers Resolution. Even initial supporters of the intervention in Libya say the president should seek congressional approval.
From the Washington Post editorial board:
An assertion that congressional approval is unnecessary because NATO — and not the United States — is waging the Libyan conflict is not persuasive and ignores the fact that NATO weapons and personnel are supplied and directed by member countries, including the United States. Arguments that the United States is no longer involved in hostilities also fall short. As recently as late April, the United States conducted military strikes using drones.
“The president has said where we have unique capabilities, he is willing to use those,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at the time — and rightly so. Even if the administration is now only supplying intelligence and other support, that is part of war fighting — and the uncertainties of conflict may again require more kinetic (to use a recently favored euphemism) military involvement.
The administration seems not even to have tried to secure Congress’s buy-in before the Friday deadline. Rather than dodge compliance, the president should seek congressional authorization next week, once both chambers are back in session. As the Supreme Court has noted, the president’s powers are at their highest when he acts in concert with Congress. In this case, Mr. Obama’s flexibility in taking appropriate action in Libya would be enhanced by securing Congress’s endorsement.