Understanding the War Powers Resolution, as if you care
May 19, 2011
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AFP: US senators challenge Obama on Libya.
If you’re like most people, you don’t know much about the legal debate over the war in Libya. Here’s why this is an issue:
1. The Constitution doesn’t provide for fighting people without a declaration of war (which is something Congress has to do).
2.Presidents throughout history have fought people without a declaration of war anyway.
3. So after Vietnam, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution. In a nutshell, it says that if there’s an attack on the US or whatever, the President can fight people without getting permission from Congress, but if he does that, he has to get Congress’s permission within 60 days of the start of fighting.
4. One problem: the War Powers Resolution isn’t a real law. It’s basically what Congress thinks the law should be. Due to separation of powers, Congress really can’t pass any laws telling the President that he has to get their permission for something.
5. So now a bunch of Congressfolk are getting pissed that Obama doesn’t seem eager to get their permission for whatever it is he’s doing in Libya.
6. My view? From a legal standpoint, Obama doesn’t have to do anything. The War Powers Resolution means no more than a newspaper editorial signed by a majority of the members of Congress 40 years ago. But from a political standpoint – well, he should do something. It sets a bad precedent for the President to declare war without involving Congress. Even if this Congress is filled with a bunch of dicks who are likely to use this as an excuse to score political points and to shove through pork.
7. You still don’t care. Oh well.