On Friday, June 24, 2011, the House is scheduled consider H.J.Res. 68 under a rule. The rule provides one hour of debate with 40 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and 20 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Armed Services. The rule also provides one hour of debate on H.R. 2278 (summarized in a separate Digest) equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Armed Services. Additionally, the rule provides for one motion to recommit on each measure. H.J.Res. 68 was introduced by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) on June 22, 2011, and referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs and Armed Services.
H.J.Res. 68 would authorize the President to continue limited use of the U.S. Armed Forces in Libya, in support of U.S. national security policy interests, as part of the NATO mission to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011). The authorization for such use of force would expire one year after the date of enactment of the joint resolution.
The resolution would also state that Congress does not support the use of any member of the U.S. Armed Forces on the ground in Libya except in defense of U.S. Government officials or to rescue members of NATO from imminent danger.
The resolution would also direct the President to provide regular briefings and reports to Congress as requested, to include: an updated description of the United States’ national security interests in Libya; an updated statement of United States’ policy objectives in Libya, both during and after Qaddafi’s rule, and a detailed plan to achieve them; an updated and comprehensive list of the activities of the United States Armed Forces in Libya; an assessment of the groups in Libya that are opposed to the Qaddafi regime, including potential successor governments; a full and updated explanation of the President’s legal and constitutional rationale for conducting military operations in Libya consistent with the War Powers Resolution.
The Constitution divides war powers between Congress and the President. Congress has the power to declare war and raise and support the armed forces, while the President is commander in chief.
The following information on the Libya timeline and Congress’ involvement was provided by Committee on Foreign Affairs:
- On March 21st, 48 hours after U.S. armed forces engaged in military operations, the President submitted a letter/report to Congress to justify the use of force in Libya.
- On May 20th, concurrent with the 60-day limitation in the War Powers Resolution, the President submitted a letter to Congress providing an update on the status and nature of U.S. military involvement in Libya and urging adoption of a Senate resolution expressing support for military operations in Libya.
- On May 26, 2011, the House passed an amendment offered by Mr. Conyers to the National Defense Authorization Act which prevented funds authorized in the Act from being used to fund ground troops in Libya. The amendment passed by a margin of 416-5.
- On June 3, 2011, the House approved, by a vote of 268-145, H.Res. 292 underscoring the lack of Congressional authorization for the use of U.S. armed forces regarding Libya; the failure of the President to provide Congress with a compelling national security rationale for the United States military engagement in Libya; and requiring specific information and legal basis justifying the engagement.
- On June 15, 2011, the Departments of State and Defense provided a report and documents regarding U.S. activities in Libya.
- The Administration also submitted a single-paragraph legal justification for the Libya engagement, which boils down to the assertion 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 [they]…are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the [War Powers Resolution],” because they don’t involve sustained fighting, U.S. ground troops, or a serious threat of U.S. casualties, and are in support of a multinational coalition “legitimated by…a United Nations Security Council Resolution.”
- Speaker Boehner has stated that the argument -- reportedly made in opposition to the views of DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel -- “just doesn’t pass the straight-face test,” particularly in light of ongoing U.S. airstrikes inside Libya. Furthermore, by its terms, the War Powers Resolution applies not only to “hostilities,” but also to “imminent” hostilities, and to situations where U.S. forces enter foreign territory or airspace “while equipped for combat.”
- Further, despite Administration claims, the June 15th report failed to address the issues raised by the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who, in a letter dated June 14, 2011, specifically asked about the legal analysis used to justify the Libya engagement: “Assuming you conducted that analysis, was it with the consensus view of all stakeholders of the relevant Departments in the Executive branch? In addition, has there been an introduction of a new set of facts or circumstances which would have changed the legal analysis the Office of Legal Counsel released on April 1, 2011?”
There is no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate associated with this legislation.