US Congress threatens to block Libya campaign over lack of consultation

The American military's continuing participation in Nato operations in Libya appeared to be in jeopardy last night as Congressional leaders, angered by what they say has been the White House's refusal to properly consult them, threatened to block funding.

A row has been brewing for weeks over the perceived failure of the White House to give Congress a say in whether the Libyan action is justified. It boiled over when John Boehner, the House Speaker, sent a letter to President Barack Obama this week giving him until today to explain why the US military is involved or otherwise find himself in violation of a Vietnam War-era law that theoretically gives Congress equal powers to send US troops to war.

Squabbles between the two halves of US government over who has the power to deploy troops arise regularly. But if Congress continues to feel ignored over Libya, the temptation to try to withhold necessary funds may become real, even if the scope to do so may be limited. "The Congress has the power of the purse," Mr Boehner said. "And certainly that is an option as well."

Mr Boehner, who heads the Republican majority in the House, was responding to a 32-page report sent by the White House to Capitol Hill on Wednesday justifying the operations in Libya. It argued that ever since Nato took the lead since mid-April, US forces have played a mostly supporting role. For that reason, it said, US soldiers were not involved in full-blown hostilities and the 1973 War Powers Resolution does not apply.

"We're not engaged in sustained fighting," one senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters. "There's been no exchange of fire with hostile forces. We don't have troops on the ground. We don't risk casualties to those troops. None of the factors, frankly, speaking more broadly, has risked the sort of escalation that Congress was concerned would impinge on its war-making power."

While Mr Boehner said he would await word from the White House legal office today before taking further steps, he hardly seemed impressed by the case made in the report. "It doesn't pass the straight-face test in my view that we're not in the midst of hostilities," he said. "It's been four weeks since the President has talked to the American people about this mission. I think it's time for the President to outline for the American people why we are there."

Thisx week, a lawsuit was filed by a bi-partisan group of 10 members of the House of Representatives, accusing Mr Obama of deploying resources to Libya illegally. The court action was joined by both anti-war members of the liberal wing of his own party and by conservative Republicans.

In his original letter to the President, Mr Boehner contended that "the ongoing, deeply divisive debate originated with a lack of genuine consultation prior to commencement of operations and has been further exacerbated by the lack of visibility and leadership from you and your administration."

With most of the bombing being done by European countries, notably Britain and France, the US role is mostly supplying surveillance and refueling capabilities as well as some strikes by unmanned drone aircraft. In its report, the White House says that it has spent $715.9m on Libyan operations so far, which will rise to $1.1 bn by October.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
Virtual reality headset: 'Essentially a cinema screen that you strap to your face'
techHow virtual reality is thrusting viewers into frontline of global events and putting film-goers at the heart of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Interface Developer - HTML, CSS, JS

£17000 - £23750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Liverpool based international...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness