60 days after the March 21 informing of Congress of the attack, President Barack Obama has missed his legal deadline to obtain Congressional approval for the Libyan War. NATO insists the war will continue, but under US law, it is now completely illegal.
The administration was perfectly aware of the requirement to obtain such approval under the War Powers Act of 1973, even using the act as justification for their lack of authorization during the 60 day grace period. Despite this, no authorization was even sought until late Friday afternoon, literally hours before the deadline slipped.
Which of course meant Congress had no time to even consider holding a vote on the conflict. An successful authorization vote is the actual requirement of the law, not simply a last second request for one.
The law was an attempt to settle what many presidents at the time saw as a loophole in the Constitutional requirement for Congress to declare all wars – granting only a short grace period for conflicts of any size so presidents could no longer claim a fight was too small to be a real war.
And indeed, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates brought this age-old claim out early this week, claiming the Libya War was technically just a “limited kinetic action.” Unfortunately for him and the rest of the administration, the act provides no exemption for such an “action.” Whether war, kinetic action, or any other term is applied, there is one label that fits quite neatly – federal crime.