Republicans accuse Obama of violating war powers

A group of Republican Senators accused US President Barack Obama of violating a 1973 law that limits the White House’s war powers.

Citing Obama’s handling of the conflict in Libya, the Senators contend that the President entered into conflict in Libya without regard for the War Power Act. The law requires that all US forces sent into conflict by the President must be withdrawn within 60 days unless explicitly authorized by the US Congress.

In a letter to the President, Republican Senators Rand Paul, Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, Tom Coburn, and John Cornyn asked Obama whether he intended to abide by the law, a law often overlooked by Presidents, and ensure US forces are returned home within 60 days.

May 20 marks 60 days of US forces conducting operations over Libya.

"Last week some in your administration indicated use of the United States Armed Forces will continue indefinitely, while others said you would act in a manner consistent with the War Powers Resolution," the letter said. "Therefore, we are writing to ask whether you intend to comply with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution. We await your response."

Under the US Constitution only the Congress can legally declare war and commit troops to combat for extended periods of time.

The War Powers Act clarified what authority the White House holds in regards to the US military. It allows a US President to use US forces in the event of an attack on the United States, its territories or forces but requires that an extended use of force be approved by Congress within 48 hours of the commitment. Failure to receive approval means all US forces engaged must be withdrawn within 60 days. The withdraw may take place over a 30 day period, but must begin on or by the 60th day in conflict.

Previous inquiries to the Pentagon regarding the War Powers Act have been ignored or evaded.

"The War Powers Act question is above my pay grade, and so I would refer you to the White House," US Defense Secretary Robert Gates once said.

Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at The Independent Institute said Obama’s war in Libya is illegal and unconstitutional, but Obama is not the first US president to violate the law.

America’s founders wanted laws to restrict the power of an executive to send a nation to war, thus a requirement was made that war be declared by Congress – not a single leader.

Eland argued Congress has abdicated from their responsibilities to avoid having ot discuss the war or having to go officially on record for supporting or objecting to war.

More Tea Partiers should get involved in this,” he said. “We’ve gone way off the end with executive rule and that’s not a good thing for a republic.”

Former US President Bill Clinton also ignored the War Powers Act, but he did go to Congress to approve expenses. Obama has given no plans to seek approval for funding for combat missions.

He knows better,” said Eland, citing Obama’s past as a constitutional law professor. “He was the anti-war president. Now he has one more war than Bush.

America’s founding fathers foresaw this and wanted to prevent it. Unfortunately today much of the law is ignored.