“This is another example of where the Congress ends up looking as if it is irrelevant,” he said. “Whether it’s the Department of the Interior, [Environmental Protection Agency] or going to war with Libya, the president seems to regard Congress as if it is irrelevant.”
Chaffetz criticized fellow Republicans for being “noticeably silent on this issue” but speculated that fiscal conservatives could join the movement against involvement in Libya.
“The cost will be an issue because it has nothing to do with our national security,” he said. “I haven’t heard anyone even pretend to make the case that is why we are doing this.”
White House officials maintain that Obama has the authority to launch strikes in Libya given the limited scope of the operation.
During a press briefing Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, where the president was promoting trade, national security adviser Tom Donilon said the administration is keeping Congress “fully informed as to what we are pursuing” in Libya but stopped short of saying Obama needs a Congressional sign-off for the type of action being taken.
“Consultation with Congress is important” in terms of defining the role the United States will play in the Libya attacks and in defining the outcome, Donilon said. “The administration welcomes the support of Congress in whatever form that they want to express that support.”
But given the limited “scope, duration and task” of the operation, it “does fall in the president’s authorities” to move forward with military action, he added.
Donilon noted that the situation in Libya escalated Thursday night, when lawmakers were leaving Capitol Hill and when the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling for the no-fly zone. Obama responded by calling Hill leaders Friday to consult with them on the situation, he said, and administration officials called them again Saturday.
In addition, the president plans to transfer authority to coalition partners “in a matter of days, not weeks,” to carry out further military operations in the region, Donilon said.
“But the administration welcomes expressions of support in whatever form that the Congress wants to have those,” he added.
Obama continues to emphasize that the United States is only part of a broader international coalition trying to stop Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi from inflicting violence on his people.
“We are one of the partners among many to ensure the no-fly zone is enforced,” Obama said during a Monday press briefing in Santiago, Chile.
The president sent a letter to Congress later Monday to reiterate what Donilon told reporters earlier: The president has the constitutional authority to pursue limited military action like the mission in Libya.
“The United States has not deployed ground forces into Libya,” he wrote in the letter addressed to President Pro Tem Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “United States forces are conducting a limited and well-defined mission in support of international efforts to protect civilians and prevent a humanitarian disaster.”