Under the War Powers Act, Obama's Authority to Act in Libya Expires Today
The question is whether anyone in Washington cares? Or is it, according to Richard Nixon's formulation, simply legal if the president does it?
U.S. operations in Libya hit the 60-day mark Friday, but Congress has grown largely silent on the administration’s unilateral intervention into the war-torn North African nation.
The 1973 War Powers Act (WPA) — the statute President Obama invoked when he launched forces in March — requires presidents to secure congressional approval for military operations within 60 days, or withdraw forces within the next 30.
Congress did not authorize the mission — which includes a no-fly zone, bombing raids, a sea blockade and civilian-protection operations — but the deadline has stirred little sense of urgency on Capitol Hill.
House lawmakers are in the midst of a weeklong recess. And the Senate, which stuck around, is also unlikely to address the issue this week, according to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
There has been some congressional action, however.
On Thursday, six Senate Republicans wrote to Obama asking him if he intends to comply with the WPA.
To state the obvious: it shouldn't matter if one supports the Libya intervention, or is a huge Obama supporter. Once granted, whether on ade jure orde facto basis, the executive never relinquishes any power. So, if Obama effectively kills the War Powers Act, it will stay killed for future administrations.