Bloomberg News

Libya Mission Will Violate War Powers June 19, Boehner Says

June 15, 2011

(Updates with White House report being sent to Congress in eighth, ninth paragraphs.)

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- Expressing rising Republican frustration with the U.S. military involvement in Libya, House Speaker John Boehner told President Barack Obama in a letter yesterday that without congressional authorization, the mission would be in violation of the War Powers Resolution on June 19.

The Ohio Republican’s demand for more information about the U.S. role in the operation follows the House’s June 3 approval of a resolution, sponsored by Boehner, rebuking Obama for failure to state a “compelling” national security “rationale” for supporting the bombing campaign against Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

The House voted 268-145 to approve that resolution, derailing an alternative by Ohio Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich that would have required Obama to withdraw U.S. military support from the Libya mission in 15 days. Kucinich’s resolution, which failed by a vote of 148-265, was supported by 87 Republicans.

Approval of Boehner’s resolution reflected what lawmakers described as a combination of war fatigue, perplexity over the strategic purpose of the U.S. mission in Libya and Obama’s failure to consult Congress.

In his letter to Obama, Boehner said that absent congressional approval, the War Powers Resolution of 1973 requires a cessation of U.S. military involvement and withdrawal of forces 90 days after the start of a conflict.

June 17 Deadline

The speaker demanded that the president provide by June 17 any legal analysis his lawyers have written “to justify your position” that the administration is in compliance with the 1973 War Powers Resolution.

Boehner’s deadline for Obama’s response coincides with the day set in the House resolution for the administration to provide a more detailed explanation of the U.S. mission in Libya.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration will send a letter and a report on the Libya mission to Congress this afternoon. The report, which runs more than 30 pages, will “answer a lot of the questions that members have,” Carney said at the White House.

The U.S. action in Libya action is “consistent” with limits on White House authority, Carney said. The administration is “very confident” it can satisfy congressional concerns, he said.

Libya Operations

Since the start of the campaign in March, the U.S. has provided aerial surveillance and refueling support for the operation, now led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to pressure Qaddafi to yield power and to protect rebels from forces loyal to him.

The House “has sought to balance two equal imperatives regarding Libya which have been in direct contradiction,” Boehner said in the letter, which was released by his office.

Members have sought to reconcile “America’s leadership role in the world” with a “strong concern and opposition” to “using military force when the military mission, by design, cannot secure a U.S. strategic policy objective,” Boehner wrote.

“The White House has systematically avoided requesting a formal authorization” while contending that the administration’s “actions are consistent with the War Powers Resolution,” he wrote.

Frustrated Americans

That “has left many members of Congress as well as the American people frustrated by the lack of clarity over the administration’s strategic policies,” Boehner said.

Kucinich released a statement yesterday saying that he and another anti-war House member, North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, would file a federal lawsuit in Washington today objecting to U.S. participation in the Libya mission.

Growing Republican impatience with U.S. military entanglements overseas was also reflected in the June 13 debate by Republican presidential hopefuls in New Hampshire. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota called Obama’s Libya strategy “substantially flawed.” Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said that a lesson of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is that U.S. troops “shouldn’t go off and try to fight a war of independence for another nation.”

--With assistance from Nicholas Johnston, Roger Runningen and Kathleen Hunter in Washington. Editors: Leslie Hoffecker, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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