Disagreement in administration over War Powers and Libya

Alec Jacobs Contributor
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Late Friday, the White House acknowledged that both Attorney General Eric Holder and the Pentagon’s top lawyer concluded that the conflict in Libya should be considered “hostilities,” in opposition to what the White House has claimed.

The National Journal reports that President Obama, his lawyer Robert Bauer, and State Department legal adviser Harold Koh don’t believe the term “hostilities,” as described in the War Powers Act, applies to U.S. action in Libya. Because troops are not in danger and the U.S. is acting in compliance with a United Nations resolution, the president felt there was no need to get permission from Congress for actions in Libya.

The White House also claims that the departments of Justice and Defense think the president’s interpretation of the War Powers Act is legitimate, meaning there’d be no need to get congressional approval.

(The non-war in Libya)

But according to the New York Times, Defense Department lawyer Jeh Johnson and Justice Department acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel Caroline Krass expressed their views that the U.S. intervention in Libya should be defined as “hostilities.”

Not surprisingly, Speaker of the House John Boehner agrees.

Boehner sent a letter to the president this week, informing him that without congressional approval, the mission in Libya would officially be in violation of the War Powers Act as of June 19. Boehner’s letter is the embodiment of rising frustration in the Republican Party with what they view as the president’s refusal to provide a “compelling” national security “rationale” for military actions against Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.