- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers went to court Wednesday to try to stop President Obama’s troop deployment to Libya, saying it violates the law, but the White House submitted a report to Congress arguing that it is adhering to the War Powers Resolution because it is not actually engaged in “hostilities.”

“U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof,” the administration said in a 32-page public report, which was sent to Congress along with a classified annex describing in more detail the rebels the U.S. is aiding.

In an accompanying letter to Congress, Mr. Obama said the U.S. is supporting a NATO coalition that is maintaining a no-fly zone over the country to give rebels there room for opportunity, though he said with the exception of a rescue mission in March, no American ground forces have been deployed to Libya.

Still, he acknowledged that U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles are striking targets in Libya, and a senior administration official briefing reporters said American warplanes are still flying sorties and can respond if fired upon.

Those actions would seem to test the limits of what is considered hostile action under the 1973 War Powers Resolution.

The 32-page report also gives a detailed look at spending on the conflict. Military spending totaled $715.9 million through June 3, of which more than half of that total is expended munitions. By Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, that will have grown to $1.1 billion, with an additional $50 million spent on munitions over the final four months.

Obama administration officials said those funds are being shifted from within the Defense Department, and it doesn’t see a need to request emergency funds from Congress. Such a request likely would precipitate a major fight on Capitol Hill over whether the president should be allowed to continue the mission.

The State Department has spent an additional $3.7 million, and the government has committed nearly $81 million more toward humanitarian assistance.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, called the justification “creative” and said Mr. Obama still needs to articulate how the mission in Libya is central to national security goals.

“We will review the information that was provided today, but hope and expect that this will serve as the beginning, not the end, of the president’s explanation for continued American operations in Libya,” Mr. Buck said.

In his letter to Congress, Mr. Obama gave a full update on U.S. troops who have been committed around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Kosovo and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as Libya.

U.S. deployments

Administration officials said they are not contesting the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution, which places limits on the president’s ability to commit U.S. troops to fighting.

But Congress may see it differently.

On Tuesday, Mr. Boehner wrote a letter to Mr. Obama saying if he doesn’t withdraw troops or get Congress‘ approval by Sunday, he could run afoul of the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Earlier this month, the House passed a resolution setting a Friday deadline for the administration to provide detailed information on the extent and goals of its Libyan operations.

The White House responded Wednesday with its report that said the U.S. was acting in accord with U.N. authority.

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