Epstein on War Powers Resolution and Libya

War Powers and Libya
Richard A. Epstein
Defining Ideas
June 21, 2011

When it comes to U.S. involvement in Libya, the Obama administration has made a mess in dealing with its obligations under the War Powers Resolution (WPR), a law designed to check the president’s ability to commit America to war without the consent of Congress. Before I read the unsigned statement that President Barack Obama sent to Congress under the bland heading, "United States Activities in Libya," I was prepared to give the president and his legal team the benefit of the doubt. But his embarrassingly thin legal analysis calls into question the constitutional competence of those members of his divided legal team who concluded that the president is entitled to go it alone in Libya without further Congressional authorization.

Here is an excerpt of the statement:

The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of "hostilities" contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision [that provision states that the president can engage in war for 60 days without Congressional authorization]. U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in