Via Libya and the War Powers Act –, comment on Obama’s conflict with Congress over whether US participation is within his authority:

It would be hugely costly — for this country’s credibility, for the future of NATO and for the people of Libya — if Congress were to force President Obama to abandon military operations over Libya. However, Mr. Obama cannot evade his responsibility, under the War Powers Act, to seek Congressional approval to continue the operation.

But the 1973 act does not apply solely to boots-on-the-ground, full-out shooting wars. It says that 60 or 90 days after notifying Congress of the introduction of armed forces “into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated,” the president must receive Congressional authorization or terminate the mission.

The subject came up in Foreign Office questions on 7 June, when Richard Fuller pipped me to it:

Richard Fuller (Bedford, Conservative)

The good work of our armed forces, the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Libya depends on the support of the United States. Does the Foreign Secretary have any comment to make on moves in the US Congress to review President Obama’s decision on his commitment to our efforts in Libya?

William Hague (Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Richmond (Yorks), Conservative)

This has been a long-running constitutional issue in the United States of America between various Presidents and Congress, and I probably have enough on without wading into American constitutional theory. We are assured by the US Administration that—[Interruption.] No, I really am not going to wade into that. We are assured by the US Administration that they are entirely satisfied with the powers they have to undertake the operations that they are undertaking and that those operations will continue.

So there we have it. For my own part, the US War Powers Resolution seems simple enough and the NY Times is right: President Obama cannot evade his responsibility to secure Congressional approval. He should do so.

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