A lawsuit filed by 10 members of Congress, alleging that President Obama had violated the Constitution by authorizing military operations in Libya, was dismissed Thursday by a federal judge.
That decision came long after the action had begun and on the same day that the rebels--with air support from the U.S. and NATO--completed their takeover of Libya. Additionally, it was the day that Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi was killed as rebels overran his last stronghold at Sirte.
Those victories had already removed the immediate relevance from this court challenge, which was filed June 15. However, if the court had found in favor of the 10 members of Congress, the lawsuit might still have established a precedent for future presidents and limited their ability to send troops or planes into combat overseas.
The lawsuit, filed by seven Republicans and three Democrats, asked the court to suspend the military operation in Libya until Congress voted to declare war. On Thursday, Obama said that “our NATO mission will soon come to an end.”
In this case, Obama ordered U.S. forces to participate in an air campaign against Gaddafi’s forces without obtaining permission from Congress. Lawmakers had hoped that the judge would find Obama violated the Constitution’s order that only Congress can “declare war.”
Or, they anticipated the judge could find that Obama had violated the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which requires presidents to obtain congressional permission within 60 days after sending troops into hostilities abroad.
Instead, District Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that the lawmakers’ case was essentially over before it began. He found that the lawmakers did not have standing to sue President Obama: to bring a lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove he was personally harmed, he said.
Walton found that the 10 legislators were not personally harmed.
It was not enough, Walton found, to say that they were harmed because all of Congress was harmed, by having its powers ignored and diminished. Nor was it enough to say that they were harmed because all taxpayers were harmed.
“The Court concludes that the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that they have standing—either in their capacity as Members of the House of Representatives or because of their status as taxpayers,” Walton wrote.
He granted a motion from the Obama administration to dismiss the suit.
“Judge Reggie Walton has refused to address the merits of the constitutional claim of our case,” the two said in a joint statement. They said they would consult with the other eight legislators before deciding what to do next. “This lawsuit is not just about checking executive power, but also about securing the right of Members of Congress to defend the constitutionally required balance of power in court.”