The US House of Representatives [official website] in two votes Friday sent contradictory messages over authorization of US military operations in Libya. First, the House overwhelmingly voted down 123-295 [roll call vote] a resolution [HJ RES 68] that would have authorized further operations in Libya. Then hours later, it voted down 180-238 [roll call vote] a measure [HR 2278] that would have defunded the operations, save for rescue and intelligence efforts to assist NATO. Even if the House had passed the measure, it had little chance of passing [LAT report] the Democratically controlled Senate [official website], as Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] has already expressed support for the operations in Libya. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] had threatened to defund the mission after sending President Barack Obama [official website] a letter earlier this month warning him that he was within five days of violating the 1973 War Powers Resolution [50 USC § 1541 et seq.].
Obama disagrees with certain members of Congress regarding his legal authority to continue military operations in Libya. Obama's position is that he is not in violation [JURIST report] of the War Powers Resolution. His office maintains that US activities in Libya do not amount to "hostilities" because the US is only playing a supporting role in the NATO-led mission pursuant to and limited by the UN Security Council Resolution authorizing military action in Libya to protect civilians. But earlier this week, it was reported that Obama came to this conclusion overriding the legal interpretations [JURIST report] of the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel [official websites]. Jordan Paust [academic profile] of the University of Houston Law Center has argued [JURIST op-ed] that Obama is not violating the War Powers Resolution because that was only meant to limit his authority as Commander-In-Chief but in this case Obama is acting pursuant to his Executive authority under Article II [text]. He argues: "given the fact that treaties of the United States (such as the UN Charter) are supreme federal laws, it is evident that the President has constitutionally-based authority to faithfully execute US competencies under the Charter outside of the President's independent authority as Commander-in-Chief."