Members of Congress on Monday continued to weigh in on the U.S. and allied airstrikes in Libya, with one liberal Democrat charging that the lack of a formal declaration of war by Congress delivers a message that American democracy “is deeply dysfunctional.”
California Democratic Rep. Mike Honda, the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s Peace and Security Taskforce, said in a statement Monday that in launching missiles on Libya over the weekend, “not only did the Defense Department undermine a carefully constructed consensus, which included the Arab League, but it leveled a devastating blow to our legislative-executive checks and balances.”
“For the Pentagon to deliberately circumvent Congressional authority sets a new precedent for war powers authorization and sends the message to the world that American democracy is deeply dysfunctional,” Honda said.
Honda’s statement comes as members on both the left and the right are criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to intervene in the Libya conflict.
Some of those speaking out, such as Honda, have taken issue with the process leading up to U.S. military action, arguing that Congress has been left out of the loop; several of those members have called for Congress to return from a week-long recess in order to debate the U.S. role in Libya.
Others, such as Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), have called on President Obama to clarify the extent of the U.S. mission in Libya.
Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement Sunday that while the U.S. “has and always should stand with those who are oppressed and denied their fundamental freedoms,” that should not be the only criterion for U.S. involvement. She also warned that “deferring” to the United Nations “sets a dangerous precedent” for the U.S., a view shared by McKeon.
“A United Nations’ Security Council resolution is not and should not be confused for a political and military strategy,” McKeon said Sunday.
Asked Monday about the issue of congressional authorization, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon defended the White House’s authority to take action in Libya, telling reporters traveling with Obama in Brazil that “consultation with Congress is important” and that “the administration welcomes the support of Congress in whatever form that they want to express that support.”
“This is a limited, in terms of scope, duration and task, operation, which does fall in the President’s authorities,” Donilon said. He added that “the circumstances arose with the passage of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, the night before a congressional recess. So he did, even with that, call Congress, those who remained in town on Friday and those who are out of town, on the phone to consult with them.”
Still, particularly on the House side, some lawmakers continue to feel what one aide described as a “sense of disempowerment” on the matter and a lack of knowledge about what action was specifically authorized by the White House. The next step for Congress largely depends on how the situation in Libya progresses and whether the conflict — and U.S. involvement — intensifies.