Boehner, Obama Dispute Libya Mission

Posted June 16th, 2011 at 5:50 pm (UTC-5)
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The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is trading sharp words with the White House about the legalities of the U.S. military action in Libya.

Speaker John Boehner and other lawmakers, both Democrats and fellow Republicans, say the president is legally required to seek congressional approval for the mission in Libya, but the White House disagrees.

In a report to Congress Wednesday, the White House said American forces are playing a “limited, supporting” role in Libya, which does not constitute “hostilities” that the president would be required to put to a vote.

Boehner responded Thursday, saying the U.S. is spending $10 million a day on efforts that include drone attacks and bombing the compounds of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He said that, in his view, this shows the U.S. is clearly engaged in hostilities, and he threatened legislation aimed at cutting funding for the NATO-led operation.

The bickering continued at the White House briefing Thursday, when spokesman Jay Carney said the president “simply disagrees” with Boehner's assessment. He reiterated there are no U.S. troops on the ground in Libya; U.S. troops are not engaged in “active exchanges of fire,” and there have not been any U.S. casualties during the operation.

U.S. law — the 1973 War Powers Act — requires U.S. forces to withdraw from military operations by the 90-day mark, absent congressional authorization.

The debate centers on whether the operations in Libya fall under the jurisdiction of this law. Sunday would mark 90 days since the mission in Libya began.

The White House spokesman said again Thursday that Mr. Obama would support a congressional measure authorizing the limited use of military force, even though he does not believe it is necessary.

The top Democrat in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, supported President Obama Thursday, saying she is satisfied with his explanation of the “limited nature” of the engagement.

Mr. Obama informed Congress in March of his decision to take military action in Libya, but did not seek congressional approval. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 10 House lawmakers filed a legal challenge to the involvement.

Obama administration officials originally described the U.S. military commitment as an emergency move to protect civilians from the Libyan government's violent suppression of an opposition uprising.

The U.S. has had a key support role in the operation, including aerial refueling of warplanes and providing intelligence and surveillance.