Lugar to Propose 5 Amendments Restricting Obama’s Libyan War Powers Resolution

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Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Republican Leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced today that he will offer five amendments restricting presidential powers when the committee considers next week S.J. Res. 20, which would belatedly authorize President Obama using U.S. forces in the Libyan civil war.

Since the beginning of the Libyan war three months ago, Lugar has demanded that President Obama obtain congressional approval as prescribed in the U.S. Constitution, and detailed in the 1973 War Powers Act. Three weeks ago, Lugar’s criticisms halted White House efforts to obtain congressional authority through a non-binding sense of the Senate resolution.

The House of Representatives has scheduled debate tomorrow on competing joint war resolutions, which would be binding. On Tuesday morning, June 28, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear testimony from State Department legal advisors, who have ruled that American participation in the Libyan war does not meet the definition of “hostilities” under the War Powers Act.

The committee is then scheduled to “mark up” S.J. Res 20, which gives President Obama authority to proceed with the war. Lugar sent a “dear colleague” letter to Senators arguing that S.J. Res. 20 “would provide expansive authorities permitting the continuation and significant escalation of U.S. military involvement in Libya’s civil war.”

“Though the resolution’s title indicates that it authorizes the ‘limited’ use of U.S. armed forces in Libya,” Lugar wrote, “in fact, the resolution contains few, if any, meaningful limits.  In particular:

  • “The resolution would authorize the President to re-escalate U.S. military involvement in Libya to, and potentially beyond, the lead role it played at the beginning of the operation, when the United States carried out intensive air strikes on a daily basis.  The resolution would only limit the President to actions ‘in support of United States national security policy interests’ and ‘to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.’
  • “The resolution contains no legally binding prohibition on the introduction of ground troops to Libya.  It addresses this issue only through non-binding language indicating that Congress ‘does not support’ deployment of ground troops.
  • “The resolution does not counteract the President’s assertion that current U.S. operations do not amount to ‘hostilities’ and therefore do not require Congressional authorization under the War Powers Resolution.  Allowing this assertion to stand unchallenged would increase the risk that President Obama or future Presidents will conduct similar military interventions in the future without seeking or receiving Congressional authorization.
  • “The resolution also lacks meaningful provisions for Congressional oversight of the operations, their costs, and their potential impact on other U.S. national security objectives.”

Lugar wrote that because S.J. Res. 20 “would authorize such expansive and prolonged military operations in Libya,” he will propose five amendments “that would narrow the resolution’s scope and strengthen Congress’s ability to oversee the operations.”  Those amendments, Lugar detailed, would restrict presidential powers through:

  • “A legally binding prohibition on the deployment of ground forces to Libya;
  • “A narrowing of authorized role of U.S. military forces, restricted to intelligence sharing, refueling, search and rescue assistance, and planning support for NATO operations;
  • “Required periodic reporting on the costs the United States is incurring to carry out the operations, and on their impact on the capacity of the United States and its NATO allies to carry out other operations including against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere;
  • “Specification that the War Powers Resolution applies to U.S. military operations in Libya, and that continuation of those operations requires Congressional authorization; and
  • “Expression of the Sense of the Congress that post-war reconstruction costs should be borne primarily by the Libyan people and Arab League nations who requested the military intervention.”

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