Posted by Brad @ 1:40 pm on June 24th 2011

Extra-Legal Libyan War Now Extra-Extra Illegal

Two bills regarding Obama’s Libyan Adventure are up for votes in the House today. The first was a bill giving congressional approval for military action in Libya, i.e. the shit we have been doing for the last month anyway.

That bill just failed 295 to 123. Not even along any particular partisan line. So, Congress has now not only NOT authorized action in Libya, they have now explicitly denied that authorization. So the action is not just non-authorized, it is expressly UN-authorized.

The second vote will be on whether to deny funds for any and all military actions in Libya. We should get word on the fate of that in the next hour or so. It’s thought to be much closer than the other, as one would expect (“support our troops” and all that).

Of course, the Senate has no plans to take up either bill, so neither will become law. And even if they did, the Obama administration has made it clear that they wouldn’t abide by anything Congress has to say on the matter anyway, since shooting Libyans from planes doesn’t count as “hostilities” (which is probably news to Libyans).


  1. 70 Democrats voted against the administration’s wishes, I read. I wonder if some Democratic Party Senators are going to begin worrying about their base and wish for something similar to be taken up in the House sometime before campaign season begins.

    Comment by Adam — 6/24/2011 @ 2:11 pm

  2. If the Congress denies funding to the operation, Obama won’t have any choice in the matter, surely?

    Comment by Rojas — 6/24/2011 @ 2:37 pm

  3. If the Senate were to also pass that same bill, it would get interesting, but I don’t think by any means certain. Part of the point of the military-industrial-intelligence complex is that there isn’t like a single artery carrying it blood. The executive has an awful lot of discretionary money (essentially; in military budgets, intelligence operations, etc.) that I would guess he can push around to sustain operations for awhile. Hell, all it might take is Joe Lieberman adding a “troop commitment stipend” earmark into the budget with a Presidential signing statement saying that these operations don’t fall under the definitions used in the defunding legislation.

    I mean, honestly, Obama shouldn’t have any choice in the matter about sending our military into action in a foreign country without Congressional authorization, if you’re talking about, you know, the law and stuff. Let’s just say this: what Congress does or does not authorize or deny has not seemed to have any impact on executive decisions relating to war in the last 10 years. No reason to think it would in that case either.

    Comment by Brad — 6/24/2011 @ 2:42 pm

  4. Which is, by the way, one of the points I’ve been making to both Obama supporters AND conservatives. We are quickly reaching the point, if we are not past it already, wherein the legislative branch is not particularly required or even relevant in the making or unmaking of laws. I’m not convinced in twenty years time that someone like President Obama couldn’t just restructure H&HS to create universal healthcare on his own without any legislation whatsoever, or that a President Palin couldn’t invade Iran just on her say-so and run the entire operation through the military under her direct command (which is pretty much how we’ve been doing our wars anyway). If we, as a country and as a government, collectively decide that what the President says is law, independent of what any other branch might have to say about it, what does he give a shit about what budgets Congress does or does not authorize?

    Comment by Brad — 6/24/2011 @ 2:47 pm

  5. Incidentally, the defund bill has failed by a vote of 180238 144 Republicans and 36 Democrats voted for it.

    Comment by Brad — 6/24/2011 @ 3:14 pm

  6. For those interested, Weigel throw up a list of what he calls the “present” caucus – the congressmen who voted against authorizing the war, but against defunding it as well.

    Comment by Brad — 6/24/2011 @ 3:16 pm

  7. NPRs story on the votes, while not badly slanted, failed to use the words War Powers Act, or in any way imply that the President was REQUIRED to get the permission of Congress. One could walk away from their story thinking that a bunch of self important Congressman made this vote because the President had “failed to seek the approval of Congress” rather than the President had “failed to seek the approval of Congress in explicit compliance with the law.” Frustrating, because NPR has mentioned the WPA in previous discussion, but I guess that was before their boy got dissed.

    Comment by Jack — 6/24/2011 @ 6:03 pm

  8. But the President is not required to get the permission of Congress to go to war. In what possible sense is that true?

    Comment by Brad — 6/25/2011 @ 12:51 am

  9. I’m not sure if you are being sarcastic or not. I brushed over 60 day + 30 day thing, is that what your are referring to?

    Comment by Jack — 6/25/2011 @ 10:28 am

  10. I’m not sure if sarcastic is the right word for it. But my point is I’m no longer willing to buy into even the language. Of course the President isn’t required to get the permission of Congress to go to war. Exhibit A is the war started by the President without Congressional permission that is currently underway in Libya. Exhibits B and C are Yemen and Iraq. Afghanistan was sort of authorized, although not according to constitutional proscriptions – i.e. the, you know, requirements – which strictly speaking have not been followed for 70 years.

    But at this point, can anyone say with a straight face that the President has to get the permission of Congress to be able to go to war? He, and our military, sure don’t seem to think so. At this point, it seems a polite fiction to say the president is required to do or not do anything.

    Comment by Brad — 6/25/2011 @ 1:55 pm

  11. I haven’t been able to sit down and go through the two votes in detail, but I think it’s almost exciting that 70 Democrats defied the administration and the heavy lobbying of Hillary Clinton.

    Odd bunch of 8 Republicans voting for the war, I don’t really see a clear trend there.

    I also don’t see a clear trend among the Democrats, so far. You’ve got some big name liberals on both sides of the fight. I think the Blue Dogs trend more pro-war than anti.

    Comment by VALiberaltarian — 6/25/2011 @ 2:24 pm

  12. Interesting article on some of the members who voted against “defunding” but also voted against authorization:

    Comment by VALiberaltarian — 6/25/2011 @ 4:21 pm

  13. Interestingly, insiders are claiming that the majority of the House did, in fact, want to defund the war. A tipping-point percentage of those who voted against the defund bill before them – which cut off most money but also authorized some – did so because, to offer up ANY money, they felt, would be used as a backdoor authorization for war by the Obama administration. Hence the no votes.

    Comment by Brad — 6/27/2011 @ 9:28 am

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