Rep. Tom Cole: Libyan Actions Need Congressional Approval
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, whose district includes Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill and who sits on the subcommittee that approves defense spending, says in his weekly column that President Barack Obama must ask Congress for approval of U.S. military actions in Libya:
It has been almost three months since President Obama sent U.S. forces to Libya _ without bothering to seek authorization from Congress. This action violates both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution _ both of which clearly identify Congress as the sole governmental body with the responsibility to declare war and raise and support the armed forces. With U.S. troops and resources still embroiled in the Libyan conflict, Congress recently moved to reclaim its constitutional authority by holding two important votes.
On June 3, Congress passed H.Res. 292. This legislation establishes that President Obama has not sought congressional authorization, reaffirms the constitutional role of Congress to fund military operations, asserts that there should be no troops on the ground in Libya, and requires the president to specify a process for withdrawal. Additionally, the bill gives the White House 14 days to hand over files relating to consultation with Congress, or lack thereof. This provision is similar to legislation I introduced in April to require the Obama administration to release any State and Defense department documents pertaining to the president’s decision. A president launching military operations without adequate congressional consultation sets a dangerous precedent, and it is vital to examine the administration’s actions to ensure the Constitution is protected.
Congress also voted on a resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Libya within 15 days. While this legislation did not pass, I supported it for several reasons. Gadhafi is certainly an evil man with a long record of atrocities, but the fact remains that Libya has not attacked the U.S. or our interests, has not served as a safe haven for terrorists, and has actually cooperated with the U.S. in turning over its stockpiles of nuclear-related materials and WMD. Given these facts, the situation in Libya does not meet any of the conditions under the War Powers Resolution by which presidents have constitutional authority to introduce our armed forces into hostilities There is simply no legal authority or compelling U.S. interest to justify intervention in Libya _ especially when our armed forces are already fighting two wars. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted that Libya does not represent “a vital interest for the United States.”
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