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Should Congress Have Been Consulted Re: Libya?

March 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Over the weekend the U.S. military has been participating in airstrikes against the Libyan government, bombing Libyan air defense sites in order to enforce a no-fly zone, tanks near Benghazi in order to protect rebel soldiers, and, most recently, Gadhafi’s command center in Tripoli. Whether or not the attacks will directly target Libyan ground forces has yet to be seen. The attacks, known as operation Odyssey Dawn, are being carried out under the UN Security Council resolution that backs the use of military force to prevent the Libyan government from using their military to attack civilians. But some members of Congress, from both parties, see the attacks as an unlawful breach of Congress’ power to declare war, and some are going as far as calling for impeachment.

Politico reports on the congressional pushback from the left:

A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, with one lawmaker raising the prospect of impeachment during a Democratic Caucus conference call on Saturday.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Rob Andrews (N.J.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) “all strongly raised objections to the constitutionality of the president’s actions” during that call, said two Democratic lawmakers who took part.

Kucinich, who wanted to bring impeachment articles against both former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over Iraq — only to be blocked by his own leadership — asked why the U.S. missile strikes aren’t impeachable offenses.

Kucinich also questioned why Democratic leaders didn’t object when President Barack Obama told them of his plan for American participation in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone during a White House Situation

Room meeting on Friday, sources told POLITICO.

And liberals fumed that Congress hadn’t been formally consulted before the attack and expressed concern that it would lead to a third U.S. war in the Muslim world.

Rep. Justin Amash [R, MI-3] has been leading the criticism on the Republican side, pointing out that even Obama himself when he was a member of Congress believed that attacks like the ones he has ordered in Libya violate the Constitution if Congress is not consulted. On Facebook he wrote:

Pres. Obama does not have the authority to launch strikes against Libya without congressional approval. As the President himself acknowledged during the campaign: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

The Republican leadership is taking a milder position. In a statement, Speaker of the House John Boehner [R, OH-8] said that "Before any further military commitments are made, the Administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved.”

Congress is in recess for the week for a district work period, so we’re not going to see any bills introduced on this or hearings scheduled right away. And it’s possible that we may never. Most members of Congress clearly support the actions being taken in Libya, regardless of procedural and legal considerations.

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  • frukit 03/21/2011 12:52am

    What will it take, to get our Elected Officials, to perform the Job that They Were Elected To Do ? ? I think that the Officials Elected, were Elected to Represent those that Voted For Them. What will it take for our Elected Officials to work within their Constitutional Boundaries ? ?

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  • Mahlalie 03/21/2011 7:30am

    I completely agree. The President has no constitutional authority to initiate an offensive military strike without congressional approval.

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    ConservativeNJ 03/23/2011 11:45am

    You are wrong about it. The President may certainly command the armed forces of this country as he sees fit.

    Congress may see fit to defund his efforts over time, so it behooves the President to “play nice”, shall we say?

    But everything this President does….I have a negative reflex on.

    Tell me, did he have Miranda Rights written on those missiles and bombs?

  • Abaratarrr 03/21/2011 7:49am

    Whether or not the attacks will directly target Libyan ground forces has yet to be seen.

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    Abaratarrr 03/21/2011 8:09am

    OPENCONGRESS, There is a problem with your system. I a quote is cut and pasted only the quote is posted, makes it cumbersome to list sources.


    “whether or not the attacks will directly target libyan ground forces has yet to be seen”

    it has been seen, unless you have ever seen a flying tank. The french took out a fleet of tanks over the weekend. Tanks are ground forces.

    This is not a no fly zone this is an act of war.

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    Abaratarrr 03/21/2011 8:38am

    I would also like to argue that if another nation attempted to simply enforce a “no fly zone” over any US territory that we would consider it an act of war.

    We just declared war against Libia they are now free to attack any US or allied forces at will hopefully they do not have the resources to hurt us.

    So are we now going to enforce no fly zones against syria, saidi arabia, bahrain, and china? all countries in similar situations. I guess that would be one way to end the recession/depression.

    Any way the president, the US and the UN have all exceeded their boundaries with this one.

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    donnyshaw 03/21/2011 8:52am

    Sorry, Abaratarrr. We’ve got some fixes in the work that will improve the commenting functionality here, including eliminating the bug you mention and allowing for embedded hyperlinks in comments.

  • jsimsnewchapter 03/22/2011 10:05am

    While I agree that declaring a no-fly zone is an act of war, Abaratarr, it is not necessarily a declaration of war. Because Obama has NOT declared war on Libya, but rather, has acted in a manner consistent with a “police action”, as commander in chief of the armed forces, he does have the de facto power to do this without the consent of Congress. Congress has the power to limit the range of this action by cutting him off from the funds necessary to continue, but beyond funding, they have little say.

  • danijos 03/27/2011 9:29am

    Im Glad that Obama did what he did the Libian people were begging us to help them, Gadaffi was killing Innocent people. As for Congress they need to keep their Fat Bhinds in office if they want to be consulted about anything, dont keep the gov’t Running if you’re NOT going to be There to do YOUR Job! , the job the people elected you to do, Stop taking vacations!! People out here have no jobs, starving,living in streets they dont get Vacations with PAY! and instead of dealing with that your on Another Vacation! Enough is Enough!

  • jordy27o 11/03/2011 12:46am

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  • sjlogan88 01/07/2012 6:44am

    I’m in complete agreement, even with the benefit of hindsight. The president does not have the authority to conduct a military air strike without full backing from congress. Thanks for the interesting read. Sam – Web Design & Design Jobs

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  • sjlogan88 03/14/2012 5:38pm

    Interesting question, there are so many aspects on both sides.
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  • ryanb6 04/30/2012 10:14pm

    I dont really understand the whole lets attack to make a statement thing but then again I am not a political man nor have a good standing to speak on such issues. Id love to learn more about this

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  • venkat4gd 07/04/2012 3:55am

    bq.Then what will do for libyan life? why u.s military army there?

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