Last Friday, Congress decided to tackle the great Libyan UnWar. We’re well past the deadlines set by the War Powers Act, and Congress felt it was time that they actually say something about Barry’s Big Adventure.
Well, at least that was the thought. To carry forward the football metaphor, they punted. Or, perhaps, in honor of President Obama’s stellar legislative career, it would be better to say that they “voted present.”
First up, a bill was introduced authorizing the use of force in Libya for one year. That would have satisfied the War Powers Act (if a bit tardily and a smidgen after-the-fact), heading off a potential confrontation over the issue.
That one went down in flames.
Then a bill coming at the issue from the other direction came up, barring the spending of any federal funds to continue the fighting. It would have been a de facto ending of the mission.
That one came to an ignominious end, too.
So Congress has taken up the matter of the Libyan UnWar, and we’re right back where we started. President Obama is still acting in full defiance of the law, insisting that it doesn’t count because Obama says it isn’t a “war-war.” Congress has the law on its side, but it’s never been challenged — every president has refused to accept its authority, but has managed to avoid challenging it directly, either.
Obama isn’t really challenging it — not directly. As a Senator, he’s on record as stating that he considered the law Constitutional. And let us never forget that he was a lecturer on Constitutional law, so he qualifies as an “expert” on the subject. So he can’t exactly flip and say that it isn’t a valid law.
No, that’s right, he can. He can say that all he likes, and he’ll get away with it. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s demonstrated that kind of gross hypocrisy, and he’s always gotten away with it.
But he shouldn’t. And under that premise, he really has no standing to challenge the Constitutionality of the War Powers Act. So he is doing the only thing he can here: he’s saying “it doesn’t really count in this case, because blah blah blah Kinetic Military Action yadda yadda yadda and I say so, and I won the election, so there. I’d tell you to put that in your pipe and smoke it, but Michelle won’t let me.”
So what will Congress do? The courts aren’t likely to intervene — this is a pure power struggle between two branches, and only the Supreme Court would have the slightest inclination to say anything — and they tend not to. Further, it’s not much of a struggle — Obama is simply defying it in a most undefiant way, and Congress seems utterly uninterested in fighting for its prerogatives here.
The War Powers Act has been a sore point ever since it was passed, almost 40 years ago. For most of its existence, it’s been something no one wants to really deal with.
And it looks like that ain’t gonna change any time soon. Instead, it just might die a quiet death, a law that’s on the books but is never enforced — like the Logan Act.
And that’s a damned shame. Laws that aren’t enforced should be taken off the books. If it’s on the books, it should be enforced.
I guess I’m just a bit simple-minded that way.