WASHINGTON — US Republican lawmakers on Wednesday questioned President Barack Obama’s ability to conduct military action in Libya because his 60-day congressional authority expired last week.
“We are at war in Libya,” Republican Representative Justin Amash told a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the subject. “Either Congress must authorize our strikes against Libya, or Congress must withdraw the use of force.
“What Congress can not do is continue standing by idly as our constitutional war powers are disregarded,” said the congressman from the state of Michigan, who introduced a bill calling for the end of military action in Libya unless there is a specific law authorizing such an action.
His colleague, Republican Chris Gibson, a former officer who served in Iraq, introduced legislation to reform the 1973 War Powers Act, whose goal is to limit presidential power in the outbreak of war but has been ignored by several presidents. The bill restricts the use of funds for military operations without congressional authorization.
“It’s time to reform the War Powers Act,” said Gibson, adding that while his bill is based on the situation in Libya, “the broader intent is to restore balance to the executive-legislative branch relationship on matters of war power,” he said. “I want to bring clarity to the situation.”
Obama on Friday asked members of Congress for continued support of military operations in Libya, noting that the “limited” nature of the conflict is not what the drafters of the War Powers Act had in mind.
A number of elected officials — mostly Republican — spoke out in favor of their colleagues’ proposals.
“We’re supposed to be defending the US Constitution, not the UN Security Council,” said Representative Ron Paul, a Republican contender for the 2012 presidential election.
“But this is not new,” he added. “We did it in Korea. This is a mess.”
Republican Dan Burton noted that “the president is not a king and he shouldn’t be acting like a king.”
But Howard Berman, the committee’s highest-ranking member from Obama’s Democratic Party, defended the administration.
“The president commenced a military operation to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said. “I support the resolution introduced by Senators McCain and Kerry. It’s time to end the stalemate decisively.”
John Kerry and John McCain this week introduced a resolution of support for a “limited” US mission in Libya, but the text does not explicitly authorize the mission, as Republicans in the House want.