President Obama had relied on massive Republican support to cement his position on the war in Afghanistan, escalating repeatedly with only nominal Congressional support. Yet the March attack on Libya may well be a war too far for the president, and his assumption that he can take Congressional support for granted to the point of not even asking appears to be a game-changer.
Though there are a handful of diehard hawks in the Senate for whom any war on any flimsy justification is to be praised, the Republican Party is seeing a major rethink on war, with the unilateral war in Libya even extending into the once unquestioned Afghan conflict. At this point the closest the hawks are presenting to an argument is to angrily demand that the rest of the Congress “shut up.”
And while the Senate has been largely mum on the issue, the House is expected to vote, potentially in a matter of days, on defunding the conflict. Such votes were being fought tooth and nail by House Republican leadership just weeks ago, but now livid at the president’s claims that Congress has no oversight over the war, they are not just allowing the vote but it seems to have a strong chance of passing through the House with plenty of bipartisan support.
President Obama claimed last week that the war was immune from Congressional oversight because it doesn’t count as “hostilities,” a claim which was being scoffed at even before the revelation that both Pentagon and Justice Department legal counsels told the president in no uncertain terms that this was not the case.
Now, as the White House continues to reiterate the claim, Congress has gone from mocking to livid, and the war has gone from controversial in the eyes of many Congressmen to an illegal challenge of Congressional authority. The president could be facing the first real Congressional backlash at unchecked warmaking power in decades, with both lawsuits and the power of the purse being brought to the fight against the administration’s dual claims that the Libyan War is really just the Libyan Limited Kinetic Action, and that this means Congress can’t stop it from continuing for months or years.
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