Someone, be it the ACLU, a peace group, or maybe even Rand Paul, is going to file suit if we pass the 60-day deadline without congressional authorization. So there’s the silver lining in this dubious executive move: At last, the War Powers Act will be tested in court.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 allows the president to commit U.S. forces for 60 days without the explicit authorization of Congress, with another 30 days allowed for the withdrawal of those forces…
But the administration won’t be immediately pressed to follow the law if nobody in Congress intends to enforce it. Both leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told The Cable on Tuesday that there are no plans for Senate action on the war in Libya — before or after the deadline.
“I’m not hearing from my colleagues that they feel the War Powers situation is currently in play because we’re deferring to NATO,” committee chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) told The Cable. Kerry had been working on a resolution with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) but the text was never finalized…
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the committee’s ranking Republican, told The Cable he also doesn’t see any action on the horizon, but he called on the Senate to start conducting oversight of the war and demanding more details from the Obama administration.
Lindsey Graham told Slate he’s “surprised that no one’s pushed that issue harder,” but that he’s “comfortable” with inherent executive authority on this. The purpose of the War Powers Act, according to its first section, is to “insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities” — which is to say, it’s Congress’s official judgment that they’re not comfortable with inherent executive authority after 60 days of hostilities have elapsed. But rather than take the political risk of either formally endorsing a mission that could turn bad quickly or formally rejecting a mission before we’ve achieved our goal, they’re going to look the other way via the flimsy pretext that this isn’t “our” mission anymore but NATO’s. I don’t know why it should matter who’s leading the mission so long as there are U.S. servicemen or military assets in harm’s way, but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
Incidentally, has anyone seen any recent reports about whether U.S. airmen are still flying missions over Libya? Our drones are in the sky over Tripoli and elsewhere, providing useful reconnaissance as Britain and France make their attempts to kill Qaddafi increasingly obvious. But I can’t find any news of late about whether American jets are still aloft and targeting regime units. (This article is almost a month old.) Coverage of Libya was already on its way down the news chute 10 days ago, but killing Bin Laden has left it an almost total afterthought. Which, of course, is another reason why Congress doesn’t want to take this issue up. If the public doesn’t care anymore, why revive a debate?