Speaker John Boehner put the White House on notice Friday that it should expect another vote on Libya next week, although the top House leader was short on specifics.
“The House of Representatives will not allow the White House to continue skirting its obligations to the American people, this Congress, and the laws of this nation,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “Over the coming week, our members will review all options available to hold the administration to account.”
Boehner reiterated criticism in his statement of the administration’s assertion that no hostilities are being taken in Libya and that it does not classify as a war effort.
He noted that the Office of Legal Counsel, which advises the president on legal matters, raised questions about the constitutionality of joining NATO efforts in Libya without Congressional approval.
While President Barack Obama has maintained that the effort is led by NATO allies, Members have largely asserted that under the War Powers Act the president must have Congress’ approval to continue committing military and financial resources in the troubled north African country.
It is unclear what kind of floor action the House might take next week, when the chamber considers the defense appropriations bill that could be amended with proposals regarding Libya.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who with nine other lawmakers is suing Obama for violating the War Powers Act, has vowed to propose an amendment to the defense authorization bill on the floor next week to defund the effort in Libya. The anti-war advocate cited a New York Times report that two top legal advisers suggested Obama needed Congressional approval for the Libyan effort.
“This is a stunning turn of events in which politics has trumped policy, keeping this nation in a war in violation of the Constitution and our statutes,” Kucinich said in a statement. “An immediate remedy to this fiasco is needed. Congress must move swiftly to cut off funds for the operation.”
According to the New York Times, Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, told White house officials the United States’ efforts in Libya amounted to “hostilities” and therefore required Obama to seek Congressional approval.
The deadline for such approval under the War Powers Act was May 20, but under the law the president also has an additional 30-day window that would bring the deadline to this Sunday. Others on Obama’s legal team, however, argued the military efforts fell short of “hostilities” and so Congressional approval was not necessary.
The White House issued a 30-page report to Congress on Wednesday night arguing that the U.S. had moved to a support role in Libya and that the absence of ground troops meant no Congressional approval was needed.
The report was largely met with criticism on Capitol Hill, where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hammered the administration, and lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol called for floor action to rebuke the administration. The Senate has largely split over how to deal with the issue of Libya, however.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Friday the administration would “welcome” resolutions of support on the issue, but he would not say whether Obama would seek Congress’ approval for continued efforts in the troubled north African country.
Two Democratic Congressional leaders stuck by Obama this week. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at a press conference Thursday that she did not believe Obama needed Congress’ approval to continue efforts in Libya.
In an interview on PBS Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) echoed the same sentiment.
“The War Powers Act has no application to what’s going on in Libya,” Reid said. “We have no troops on the ground there, and this thing’s going to be over before you know it anyway, so I think it’s not necessary.”