The War in Libya: What Is the Role of Congress?

Capitol Hill Briefing
April 5, 2011 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM EDT

B-338 Rayburn House Office Building

Featuring Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA); Gene Healy, Vice President, Cato Institute; and John Samples, Director, Center for Representative Government, Cato Institute; moderated by Brandon Arnold, Director of Government Affairs, Cato Institute.

President Obama's intervention in the Libyan civil war raises profound constitutional questions. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants the power to "declare War" to Congress. What does "declare War" mean in the context of the Libyan intervention? James Madison noted that the president had the power "to repel sudden attacks" on the United States, although not the power to declare war. The War Powers Act of 1973 purports to define and constrain the executive's power to declare war, yet some have suggested that it gives the president a 60-day "free pass" for military action. What does the War Powers Act mean in this situation? What options are available to Congress for responding to America's new war in the Mideast?