White House and Congress in showdown over War Powers Resolution

June 20, 2011

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(Getty Images/Chris Hondros)
A rebel commander looks over the charred remains of a Libyan army loyalist truck bombed by NATO forces.

Debate over U.S. action in Libya heated up over the weekend as the New York Times revealed that President Obama overruled top lawyers in the Justice and Defense departments over whether the 1973 War Powers Resolution applies to the Libya operation.

Many congressional Democrats and Republicans reject the White House argument that air operations and support of NATO don’t constitute war.

The debate has split into unusual alliances: anti-war Democrats and Republicans angry about the usurping of Congressional authority versus Democrats who don’t want to publically oppose the President, joined by hawkish Republicans who strongly support America’s role in Libya.

Both the Senate and House are drafting resolutions that range from voicing disapproval or cutting off spending for specific actions like Predator drone strikes — to cutting off all military spending on Libya by a certain date.

Louis Fisher is a constitutional scholar who’s worked on Capitol hill for over 40 years in various roles. He’s also Scholar in Residence at the Constitution Project and author of the forthcoming book, Defending Congress and the Constitution. Fisher testifies before Congress at the end of the month about the war in Libya. He joins us to discuss the 1973 War Powers Resolution and the legality of U.S. operations in Libya.