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Monday, June 13, 2011

Tom Cole On Libya

It has been almost three months since President Obama sent U.S. forces to Libya -- without bothering to seek authorization from Congress. This action violates both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution -- both of which clearly identify Congress as the sole governmental body with the responsibility to declare war and raise and support the armed forces. With U.S. troops and resources still embroiled in the Libyan conflict, Congress recently moved to reclaim its constitutional authority by holding two important votes.

On June 3, Congress passed H.Res. 292. This legislation establishes that President Obama has not sought congressional authorization, reaffirms the constitutional role of Congress to fund military operations, asserts that there should be no troops on the ground in Libya, and requires the president to specify a process for withdrawal. Additionally, the bill gives the White House 14 days to hand over files relating to consultation with Congress, or lack thereof. This provision is similar to legislation I introduced in April to require the Obama administration to release any State and Defense department documents pertaining to the president's decision.

A president launching military operations without adequate congressional consultation sets a dangerous precedent, and it is vital to examine the administration's actions to ensure the Constitution is protected.
Congress also voted on a resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Libya within 15 days.

While this legislation did not pass, I supported it for several reasons. Gadhafi is certainly an evil man with a long record of atrocities, but the fact remains that Libya has not attacked the U.S. or our interests, has not served as a safe haven for terrorists, and has actually cooperated with the U.S. in turning over its stockpiles of nuclear-related materials and WMD. Given these facts, the situation in Libya does not meet any of the conditions under the War Powers Resolution by which presidents have constitutional authority to introduce our armed forces into hostilities There is simply no legal authority or compelling U.S. interest to justify intervention in Libya -- especially when our armed forces are already fighting two wars. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted that Libya does not represent "a vital interest for the United States."

The military operations in Libya stand in stark contrast to those under way in Afghanistan and Iraq. Public opinion may vary regarding these missions, but there is no denying that they were only initiated after Congress granted authorization. Furthermore, Congress has held regular debates and votes to authorize funding and provide direction for the ongoing operations. More than 80 days into the Libyan operations, the Obama administration has still not defined clear objectives, established an exit strategy or provided sufficient cost estimates.

The Founding Fathers had very good reasons for ensuring that the power to declare war is subject to congressional deliberation and authorization rather than the decision of any one individual. All Americans hope for peace and freedom in Libya and throughout the Middle East, but the constitutional process has not been followed. It is good for the country that Congress has now voted to to enforce the Constitution and hold the president accountable.

From Congressman Cole's Page.