The White House said Monday that it has an obligation to answer lawmakers’ questions about U.S. involvement in NATO’s mission in Libya, but it wasn’t clear if the administration will comply with a House resolution passed Friday that threatens to withhold funding unless President Obama complies with demands for more information.
Press secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Obama hasn’t violated the War Powers Resolution, which calls for the commander in chief to obtain congressional approval if U.S. forces are to be committed to action for longer than 60 days. Mr. Carney said the White House has “consulted” with Congress, which he said meets the president’s obligations.
“To the extent that there are questions that need to be answered, we will, of course, endeavor to answer them,” he said. “And we take seriously concern expressed by members about questions they have about our mission here.”
Still, the expiration of the 60-day mark last month has roiled members of both parties, and Congress voted overwhelmingly Friday to put Mr. Obama on notice that he must explain himself or else face future consequences, possibly including having funds for the war cut off. The resolution, sponsored by House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, included more than 20 questions about the cost and goals of the U.S. role in the Libya mission.
For example, the resolution seeks more information about difference between U.S. “political and military objectives regarding Libya and those of other NATO member states engaged in military activities.” It also calls on Mr. Obama to justify why he didn’t seek congressional authorization, warning that lawmakers have a “constitutional prerogative” to withhold funding for an unauthorized use of military forces.
The White House described the resolution, which passed 268-145, as “unhelpful.” Mr. Carney said the administration welcomes any expression of support Congress wishes to give - but it has sent no signal that it actually will seek approval.
A bipartisan group of senators is sponsoring a resolution in support of the operation. But critics of the move, such as Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that resolution would send the wrong message.
“This illustration of the president’s go-it-alone attitude would set a dangerous precedent,” Mr. Lugar wrote in a Washington Post op-ed column. “The resolution would have no force of law and would not have to be passed by the House. Nonetheless, it would be touted by the administration as evidence of congressional approval for the war.”
Mr. Carney said he was “not aware” of the administration seeking any special legal guidance on compliance with the Vietnam-era War Powers Resolution in this situation.
“We take seriously concern expressed by members about questions they have about our mission here,” he said, stressing that the administration wants to “keep the pressure on” the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi and continue to support NATO allies.