- Associated Press - Thursday, June 16, 2011

Republicans and Democrats on Thursday derided President Obama’s claim that U.S. air attacks against Libya do not constitute hostilities and demanded that the commander in chief seek congressional approval for the 3-month-old military operation.

In an escalating constitutional fight, House Speaker John A. Boehner threatened to withhold money for the mission, pitting a Congress eager to exercise its power of the purse against a dug-in White House. The Ohio Republican signaled that the House could take action as early as next week.

“The accumulated consequence of all this delay, confusion and obfuscation has been a wholesale revolt in Congress against the administration’s policy,” said Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee who has backed Mr. Obama’s actions against Libya.

The administration, in a report it reluctantly gave to Congress on Wednesday, said that because the United States is in a supporting role in the NATO-led mission, American forces are not facing the hostilities that would require the president to seek congressional consent under the War Powers Resolution.

The 1973 law prohibits the military from being involved in actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization, plus a 30-day extension. The 60-day deadline passed last month with the White House saying it is in compliance with the law. The 90-day mark is Sunday.

In the meantime, Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi has maintained his grip on power, and the White House says if the mission continues until September, it will cost $1.1 billion.

Instead of calming lawmakers, the White House report and its claims about no hostilities escalated the fierce balance-of-power fight.

“We have got drone attacks under way, we’re spending $10 million a day. We’re part of an effort to drop bombs on Gadhafi’s compound. It doesn’t pass the straight-face test, in my view, that we’re not in the midst of hostilities,” Mr. Boehner told reporters at a news conference.

Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, a combat veteran and member of the Armed Services Committee, scoffed at the notion. “Spending a billion dollars and dropping bombs on people sounds like hostilities to me,” he said in an interview.

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, called the claims “really totally bizarre.” Rep. Thomas J. Rooney, Florida Republican, said telling Congress and Americans “that this is not a war insults our intelligence. I won’t stand for it and neither will my constituents.”

The White House pushed back, singling out Mr. Boehner by saying he has not always demanded that presidents abide by the War Powers Resolution.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mr. Boehner’s views “stand in contrast to the views he expressed in 1999 when he called the War Powers Act ‘constitutionally suspect’ and warned Congress to resist the temptation to take any action that would do further damage to the institution of the presidency.”

Mr. Boehner’s spokesman, Brendan Buck, dismissed Mr. Carney’s reference to a “decade-old statement.”

“As speaker, it is Boehner’s responsibility to see that the law is followed, whether or not he agrees with it,” Mr. Buck said.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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