U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner warned yesterday that Congress had the power to cut funds for U.S. involvement in Libya and said he didn’t buy White House arguments about why it had not asked for Congress’ consent for the war.
Boehner, a Republican, told reporters the House could take action as early as next week on the Libyan conflict, depending on what further information lawmakers receive about U.S. policy from the White House.
He said a lengthy White House letter lawmakers received Wednesday didn’t make clear whether President Barack Obama’s legal advisers agreed with the president’s interpretation that the Libyan conflict was too limited to require congressional authorization under the 1973 War Powers Resolution.
“It doesn’t pass the straight face test in my view that we are not in the midst of hostilities,” Boehner said. The U.S. had launched drone strikes and was part of efforts to bomb Muammar Gaddafi’s compound, he said. “We’re spending US$10 million dollars a day.”
“The House has options, we’re looking at those options … Congress has the power of the purse, and certainly that is an option as well,” Boehner said.
He said Obama, a Democrat, should address the U.S. public to clarify the U.S. mission in the North African country, saying it had been four weeks since the president had done so.
Criticism of the Libyan conflict has been building in Congress, fueled by general unease over a third war after Iraq and Afghanistan as well as partisan criticism of a Democratic president from Republican lawmakers.
In the 32-page report to Congress, the administration said Obama had not overstepped his authority in Libya because U.S. military participation had already been scaled back to a support role that did not require congressional consent.
The letter said the U.S. role had cost US$716 million as of June 3 and would reach US$1.1 billion by September 30. NATO leads the effort to protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi’s forces, with the U.S. providing logistical support and intelligence.
The U.S. Constitution says that Congress declares war, while the president is commander in chief of the armed forces.
The 1973 War Powers Resolution tried to resolve the tensions in these roles by prohibiting U.S. armed forces from being involved in military actions for over 60 days, with a 30-day pullout period. Boehner says the 90 days are up Sunday.