June 3, 2011
House Resolution on Libya
The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a resolution (268-145) introduced by Speaker Boehner purporting to limit the use of ground troops in Libya and to require the President to provide justification for and information about U.S. involvement in Libya. We posted on other congressional efforts related to U.S. involvement in Libya and the War Powers Resolution here; we posted on OLC's opinion that the President had authority to order operations in Libya here.
The House resolution says that "[t]he President shall not deploy, establish, or maintain the presence of units and members of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Libya unless the purpose of the presence is to rescue a member of the Armed Forces from imminent danger." It also "directs" members of the administration to transmit "copies of any official document, record, memo, correspondence, or other communication" relating to communications with Congress or the WPR and Libya. It further directs the President to submit detailed information to the House on a variety of often very specific questions. (Reporting directions have a 14-day deadline.) Finally, it reminds us that Congress has the power of the purse.
Speaker Boehner explained yesterday on the House floor:
This resolution puts the President on notice. He has a chance to get this right. If he doesn't, Congress will exercise its constitutional authority to make it right.
The House adopted Speaker Boehner's resolution over Representative Kucinich's much more aggressive resolution (which would have required U.S. withdrawal from supporting NATO allies in Libya).
Here's the White House response, through a press Q&A with Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest:
Q: Josh, clearly--in the House of Representatives there's a vote today. Clearly in both sides of the aisle now there's growing concern about mission creep in Libya, the lack of official notification in accordance with existing American law. What is the President's thought about this vote today and is he concerned about a lack of support of Congress?
A: Well, as you remember, Mike, congressional--the administration believes strongly in the concept of consulting with leaders of Congress. That's why the President himself consulted with congressional leaders before military action in Libya even began. And as this operation has continued, as we've shifted control of this operation to our NATO partners--or the lead of this NATO operation to our partners, we've continued to consult with Congress all along. In fact, in just the last week, there have been three separate congressional briefings that have been convened by this administration's national security team for leaders in Congress to keep them apprised of the progress and the situation there. So clearly--
Q: --not in accordance with the War Powers Act, in terms of official notifications and the 60-day expiration, which happened two weeks ago.
A: It is the view of this administration that we've acted in accordance with the War Powers Act because of this regulation consultation. We've been engaged in that consultation all along--as I mentioned, three separate briefings have been held just this week for members of Congress. We're committed to that moving forward. But in terms of the resolutions that you asked about in your first question, the President--that continued consultation demonstrates why these resolutions are unnecessary and unhelpful.
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