US congressmen sue Obama for military action in Libya

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

House Speaker John Boehner greets President Barack Obama at the 2011 State of the Union address.
Image: Pete Souza.

Several US congressmen have filed a bipartisan suit against the administration of US president Barack Obama, claiming its military operations in Libya are illegal because they did not have legislative approval.

Wednesday's lawsuit comes one day after House Speaker John Boehner expressed his concerns in a letter to the president that his administration has violated the War Powers Resolution. US federal law requires that, if Congress does not approve military action, the president must withdraw forces within 60 days from the beginning of the conflict, and that the withdrawal must be completed by the 90th day. The latter deadline will pass this Sunday.

The White House is sending Congress a report to answer questions presented in a House resolution passed on June 3, which set a two-week deadline. The deadline to respond was this Friday, and Boehner claims that the failure to do so would also have been a violation of the War Powers Resolution.

It is common for the president and the legislature to argue over war powers. The US Constitution establishes the president as the commander-in-chief of the military, but it also gives Congress the power to declare war. The White House believes that it is complying with the War Powers Resolution by frequently briefing Congress on the Libya mission, having testified at ten congressional hearings and participated in more than 30 staff briefings. Boehner argues, however, that the administration should have sought explicit congressional approval for the action.

The lawsuit, filed by Dennis Kucinich (Democratic representative from Ohio) and Walter B. Jones (Republican representative from North Carolina), along with eight other congressmen, will cite the legislature's "power of the purse" in addition to the War Powers Resolution. It will "challenge the executive branch's circumvention of Congress," and its use of UN and NATO mandates rather than Congress to justify its own actions, according to Kucinich.