According to a report in Saturday’s New York Times, the president “rejected the views ofÂ two top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department” after they told the White House they believed the U.S. participation in the NATO-led air strikes constituted hostilities. The assertion by Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline Krass, acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, would have required the president to scale back U.S. participation after May 20th.
However, as the Times report contended:
Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team â€” including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh â€” who argued that the United States militaryâ€™s activities fell short of â€śhostilities.â€ť Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.
And, as the Times report also pointed out:
Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. Under normal circumstances, the officeâ€™s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.
Senator Kerry’s and Senator McCain’s bipartisan resolution is an attempt to stem the brewing tide ofÂ anger that also extends to the House where Representatives Joe Heck (R-NV) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) are pushing to cut off funds for Libya.
“I strongly support the Presidentâ€™s action in Libya and Senator McCain and I are convinced that this resolution represents a viable and practical way forward that allows all of us to support that limited action while protecting the constitutional prerogatives of Congress over the power to wage war,â€ť Senator Kerry said in a press release about the resolution.
â€śThe Senate has been silent for too long on U.S. military operations in Libya, ” Senator McCain added. “It is time for the Senate to act. It is time to authorize the President’s use of force, whether he thinks he needs it or not. And it is time to send a message to our allies, to Qaddafi, and to his opponents in Libya who are fighting for their freedom that there is strong bipartisan support in the Senate, and among the American people, for staying the course in Libya until we succeed.â€ť
As the AP reported, both senators urged lawmakers to consider the implications of abandoning the mission.
“Gadhafi is going to fall. It is just a matter of time,” McCain said in a speech on the Senate floor. “Is this the time for Congress to turn against this policy? Is this the time to ride to the rescue of a failing tyrant when the writing is on the wall that he will collapse?”
Said Kerry: “The last message any United States senator wants to send is that this mad man need only wait us out because we are divided at home.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he had the votes to pass the resolution, with the support of all the Democrats and several Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah. The Senate was likely to debate and vote on the measure next week.
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