GOP Congressman Calls for Congress to Stop Funding of U.S. Military Action in Libya

May 26, 2011 - 7:55 AM

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.)

Rep. Tom Rooney (R_Fla.)

(CNSNews.com) -- Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told CNSNews.com on Wednesday that Congress should “exercise” its power to cut off funds for the U.S. military operation in Libya that President Barack Obama initiated without seeking congressional authorization.

“I think that we’ve gotten to the point, almost, of no return because we’ve gone over the legal term of 60 days," Rooney told CNSNews.com after testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about legislation he has proposed.

The 60-day threshold refers to the War Powers Act, which became law back in the 1970s, and was designed to limit how long the president could take military action overseas without prior congressional approval.

We’re at day 65 now," said Rooney. "So I think right now we’re operating under the assumption that he’s not going to ask for authorization. We’re not going to debate this. So I think it’s almost--we’re at the point where we have to exercise our right not to fund it until we have a reason to."

“Hey, as I said in my testimony, Libya might be -- going militarily into Libya might be the greatest thing in the world but we’ve never even debated it, we haven’t had the administration come and explain why it’s important.”

Fundamentally at issue is Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution which gives the Congress power to authorize or not authorize the use of U.S. military force. In addition to granting Congress the power "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water," and "To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations," this section of the Constitution also gives Congress the powers to "raise and support Armies" and "provide and maintain a Navy" while regulating the armed forces and funding them.

The language giving Congress the power to declare war was authored by James Madison and Elbridge Gerry, and at the Constitutional Convention itself Madison explained that it was designed to keep the war power in the hand of Congress while "leaving to the Executive the power to repel sudden attacks."

Gerry told the Constitutional Convention--which approved his and Madison's language--that he "never expected to hear in a republic a motion to empower the Executive alone to declare war."

President George W. Bush sought prior congressional authorization before involving the U.S. military in Afghanistan and again before involving the U.S. military in Iraq.The War Powers Resolution of 1973 says that “within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 4(a)(1), whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States.”

Rooney’s proposed legislation, H. Con. Res. 32 would require President Barack Obama to “adhere to the War Powers Resolution and obtain specific statutory authorization for the use of United States Armed Forces in Libya.”

Rooney was asked if the President should face any consequences for not getting congressional authorization to intervene in Libya militarily.

“The consequence is it’s going to be very hard for him to get continued funding for this operation moving forward,” he said.

“We [Members of Congress] are relevant. The Founding Fathers wanted us to participate and in fact wanted us to take the lead when it comes to declaring war,” Rooney added.

Six Republican Senators wrote President Obama on May 18 asking if he plans to comply with the War Powers Resolution.

"Friday is the final day of the statutory sixty-day period for you to terminate the use of the United States Armed Forces in Libya under the War Powers Resolution. Last week some in your Administration indicated use of the United States Armed Forces will continue indefinitely, while others said you would act in a manner consistent with the War Powers Resolution. Therefore, we are writing to ask whether you intend to comply with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution. We await your response," wrote the GOP senators on May 18.

Rep. Rooney also told CNSNews.com that it should be “very hard” to send “our kids” into battle.

He added, “It should be very hard to commit our funds to go into theaters militarily and that’s a good thing. It shouldn’t be just something that you know by the discretion of one person deciding that he’s going into a place like Libya unilaterally with the approval of the Arab League and NATO and not the U.S. Congress.”