A surprising escalation late today in the ongoing constitutional dispute over President Obama's right to conduct the war in Libya without congressional approval.
In a statement late Friday (full text below) House Speaker John Boehner criticized the administration's refusal to provide requested information, mocked its claim about no combat in Libya and vowed new actions in coming days to "hold the administration to account."
Boehner said Congress would "not allow the White House to continue skirting its obligations to the American people, this Congress, and the laws of this nation."
The serious constitutional dispute has been building almost since the conflict's earliest attacks March 19 when Obama assured concerned House members that the conflict, ostensibly designed to prevent threatened widespread rebel civilian killings by Moammar Kadafi's forces, would last days, not weeks. The mission has since been expanded to oust or kill Kadafi.
Now three months into the operation that has cost $716 million so far, Obama has no authorization or declaration of war to give him the authority to conduct the military operations.
A 90-day limit on such combat operations under the War Powers Resolution of 1973 expires Sunday. A bipartisan group of congressmen has already sued the Democratic administration over its refusal to seek appropriate legal authority.
Earlier this week the White House delivered documents to Congress, essentially arguing that it did not need congressional approval for such a limited operation, anticipated to cost $1.1 billion by September.
Administration attorneys essentially argued that the United States was playing a back-seat and supportive role to NATO allies and didn't need authority for such ongoing defense operations.
Boehner said: "The White House’s suggestion that there are no ‘hostilities’ taking place in Libya defies rational thought."
A recent Rasmussen Reports poll found 59% believe Obama should get congressional approval before continuing military action in Libya, and only 26% of likely voters want U.S. involvement there to continue.
Perhaps the top Republican in Congress can discuss these issues Saturday when he is scheduled to play golf with the president, Joe Biden and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Obama's unauthorized Libyan war costs you $9,241,000 a day
President Obama's March speech on the attacks on Libya
Obama's job approval among the military even worse than among civilians
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Statement by Speaker John Boehner on Libya and the War Powers Resolution, as provided by his office
The American people and members on both sides of the aisle have concerns about the mission in Libya and questions that have gone unanswered by this White House.
While the President responded to some questions earlier this week, it is unfortunate that he specifically chose not to respond to an important question about whether the Office of Legal Counsel supports the White House’s extraordinary legal basis for ongoing military operations in Libya.
Despite the constitutional concerns anyone may have with the statute, the War Powers Resolution is the law of the land and cannot be simply ignored.
The White House’s suggestion that there are no ‘hostilities’ taking place in Libya defies rational thought. Now, its decision to conceal the opinion of the OLC raises even more concerns.
From the outset of this operation, members of the House have demonstrated respect for the authority granted to the Commander-in-Chief.
Unfortunately, the President has not exhibited a similar appreciation for Congress’ important job of providing oversight and accountability.
Even worse, he has failed to communicate to the American people why continuing this mission is critical to our national security.
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. Over the coming week, our members will review all options available to hold the administration to account. ####
Photos: Mike Theiler / EPA (Boehner); ICEF Roderick Eubanks / U.S. Navy (the USS Barry launches Tomahawk missiles at Libya in March).