Rangel: Obama Needed Congressional Authorization for Military Intervention in Libya

By Nicholas Ballasy | March 31, 2011 | 11:45 AM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Following a closed briefing for members of the House on the U.S. military operation in Libya, Democrat Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) told CNSNews.com that President Obama did not have the constitutional authority to use military force in Libya without Congressional approval. Rangel added that he would “like to believe” members of Congress are looking into whether or not the President’s action is an impeachable offense.

“The Constitution is clear that when you say that their families back home is going to make this ultimate sacrifice, then you have to have a vote,” Rangel told CNSNews.com after attending a briefing with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.

“As it is now, it’s very difficult to know except what the president told us as to what authority does he have except other Presidents have done the same thing and I still think other Presidents are wrong for doing it.”

When asked if the President’s action is an impeachable offense, Rangel said that Congress would have to make that decision. However, he added that he would “like to believe” members of Congress will examine the issue.

“Well, you know if the Congress, if the House of Representatives are the ones to determine whether or not it’s an impeachable offense, there’s a vehicle for that set up in the Constitution which is much like a grand jury and if they did find that it was impeachable then of course the trial would be in the Senate and so there is a way before we do anything to try to find out where there’s facts that should be investigated. I don’t think there’s enough there to do that because of the nation’s concern,” he said.

“Once again, that’s something I wasn’t even thinking about until you raised it. It is the Congress that feels the pulse of the nation and I would suggest to you just as in a regular jury that if indeed there were technical violations of the Constitution, it would be the Congress especially the House that’s elected every two years that would be able to vote the way they think what America would want them to vote. So, again, it shows the genius of the founders of the Constitution to have these checks and balances without technically being bound but Presidents don’t have the right to take that broad flexibility from the Congress on their own unilaterally.”

Rangel added, “I’d like to believe that lawyers, constitutionalists and members of Congress are looking at that every day; every time there’s a kid that’s been assigned to a war that has not been declared. I’d like to believe that’s being studied and looked into.”

Rangel also said that Congress has to decide if it wants to “forfeit” its Constitutional right to declare war.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

“We should try to clear this thing up. We cannot put this thing in rewind and think that we can make any changes. Commitments have been made and no matter whether the President is right or wrong when our country speaks, it speaks and we have an obligation to have credibility in the international community,” he said.

“But the truth of the matter is, we ought to really have a bipartisan assembly of the Congress to find out, ‘Does it really want to forfeit their constitutional right and obligation to be involved whenever Americans are going to be attacking other countries and involved in what can only be described as war?’”

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