President Obama failed to seek a declaration of war before ordering US attacks on Libya. Now, he faces a challenge under the War Powers Resolution.
By any reasonable reading of the Constitution, that was a violation of the provision in the founding document that requires the executive to attain authorization from Congress before launching military adventures abroad. But presidents have skirted that requirement in recent decades by claiming that the 1973 War Powers Resolution -- an act originally intended to constrain presidential war-making -- affords them the freedom to fight first and consult Congress later.
The War Powers Resolution, enacted in the late stages of the Vietnam War over a veto by President Richard Nixon, requires the commander-in-chief to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action that he or she determines is necessary in the face of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." The resolution also forbids armed forces from remaining in action for more than 60 days without Congressional authorization of the use of military force.
That's not supposed to be a blank check for White House wars of whim, even if successive presidents have relied on self-serving interpretations of the law to launch and maintain military endeavors.
This week, however, a leading critic of the Libya mission, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, is planning to introduce legislation -- pursuant to the War Powers Resolution -- that will assert the constitutional responsibility of Congress to make decisions about declaring war.