Welch Warns President On War Powers Act

06/15/11 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch says President Obama is "dangerously close" to being in violation of the War Powers Act, because he hasn't sought Congressional approval for U.S. military actions in Libya.

Welch says he's calling on the President to comply with the law in the next few days, because an important Constitutional issue is at stake.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The War Powers Act was passed in 1973 and it requires a president to seek Congressional authorization for the deployment of military forces beyond a 90 day time period.

The Obama Administration hasn't sought Congressional approval for its military actions in Libya and the 90 day deadline will expire this weekend.

Congressman Peter Welch says it's critical for the Administration to adhere to the provisions of the law before the time limit runs out.

(Welch) "The White House is dangerously close to being in violation of the War Powers Act. That act is about the question as to whether any President has the right unilaterally to commit American forces to hostilities that's a fundamental separation of powers issue it's not about a particular President it's about the Constitution."

(Kinzel) Welch says the War Powers Act is structured to give a president the ability to react to a crisis with military force, but after 3 months, Congress must authorize the activities.

(Welch) "The President has some latitude to make a critical decision that has to be made immediately but that's limited and we're beyond that. The War Powers Act gives some latitude to the President latitude has been granted or he's taken it but now it's time for him to come to Congress in my view and comply with the Constitution."

(Kinzel) And Welch thinks the President would benefit from winning Congressional authorization for his policies in Libya.

(Welch) "I think it's a wise thing for the executive to do. What we've learned if nothing else is that if we're going to commit American forces and we're going to ask taxpayers to commit their money then the American people have to be supportive of that effort."

(Kinzel) Welch says the White House has indicated that it plans to provide Congress with additional information about its military actions in Libya and he hopes the Administration will include Congressional authorization for these policies as part of its overall package.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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