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Obama Refutes Challenges to War Powers Authority Over Libya

June 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: White House officials today defended the president’s authority to pursue military action in Libya. They said the U.S. is not engaged in sustained fighting and has no troops on the ground, so there’s no need for congressional approval.

The White House response came today under pressure from Congress to clarify the legal grounds for the U.S. military involvement in Libya.

Speaking at midday, presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney said the 30-page document was designed to address lawmakers’ concerns.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: We believe that the report that we will be sending out to Congress later today answers a lot of the questions that members have, continues a process of consultation that has been broad and deep and consistent, more now, but continues the process that allowed me to say, I believe, last week that there have been 40 distinct engagements with Congress in terms of consultation on Libya.

This is part of that process. So, we — we feel very confident that we will be able to answer the questions that Congress has.

JEFFREY BROWN: Just yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner had warned the administration would violate the 1973 War Powers Resolution unless it asks and receives approval for the Libyan operation by Sunday.

In a letter to the president, Boehner wrote, “I remain deeply concerned the Congress has not been provided answers from the executive branch to fundamental questions regarding the Libya mission necessary for us to fulfill our equally important constitutional responsibilities.”

The mission began in March, when the U.S. and its allies launched airstrikes to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and to protect civilians from attacks by Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. The U.S. soon handed over operational control to NATO forces, but still plays a major support role.

In the meantime, Gadhafi has remained in power, despite stepped-up bombing of Tripoli and despite recent advances by rebel forces into government-held territory. And, as the conflict continues, with no obvious end in sight, members of Congress in both parties have become increasingly restive.

In a vote two weeks ago, the House rebuked the president for continuing the U.S. role in Libya without the consent of Congress. And, today, a small bipartisan group of House members filed a lawsuit against the administration, challenging its involvement in the Libya conflict.

Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich:

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, D-Ohio: The fact of whether there’s boots on the ground or not doesn’t really get into the question of whether or not the president had the ability in the first place to send U.S. military assets abroad to participate in or initiate a war. And so that’s — really, there’s a constitutional issue here. And it can’t be danced around.

JEFFREY BROWN: All the same, White House spokesman Carney voiced confidence today that Congress will continue to back U.S. military involvement in Libya.