The Republican led House of Representatives just voted to reject a resolution supporting the President’s military action in Libya. The vote, seen as a strong rebuke to the President, is part of the fallout from the President’s failure to notify Congress of his actions in Libya.
House Republicans have been vocal in their criticism of what they feel is the President’s violation of the War Powers Act. The War Powers Act, designed to keep President’s from taking the country into war on a whim, requires the President to notify Congress and obtain approval within 90 days of taking the country into a military action. Its further purpose is to clarify the grey area in the Constitution which gives only Congress the right to declare war but names the President Commander-in-Chief of the military.
Historically Congress has only formally declared war against a foreign nation on five occasions: The War of 1812, The Mexican American War, The Spanish American War, and World Wars I and II. But over the course of history the President has ordered the country into military conflicts on hundreds of occasions. Presidents have always worked to maintain the power of the Executive Branch of the government and have given lip service to the War Powers Act as a matter of course.
Should Obama have notified Congress of his Libyan decision on a timely basis? Of course, particularly in light of his campaign promise to do things the right way and bring transparency back to the Oval Office.
But one does have to wonder if today’s vote by the Republican controlled House would have occurred had George W. Bush been sitting in the Oval Office.