As new Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee push for Senate consideration of the president’s initiation of a war in Libya without congressional authorization, the State Department continues to wave around that Senate resolution (Resolution No. 85) in a disingenuous effort to claim Congress has authorized the war. Senator John Ensign is not amused. These remarks he contributed to the record (part of a larger statement on Libya) do not go into the embarrassing fact that the GOP seems to have been snookered — Sen. Ensign’s approach is to say the offending paragraph doesn’t mean what Democrats say it means, not that Democrats caught the GOP napping and slid it into a larger resolution that the GOP allowed to be rubber-stamped. But he effectively makes the point that, contrary to Secretary of State Clinton’s pretensions, the resolution doesn’t authorize anything.
No Congressional Authorization
While Secretary Clinton has continued to refer to S. Res. 85 as a Senate endorsement of the President’s establishment of a no-fly zone, I’d like to point out to the American people that this talking point is very misleading.
Senate Resolution 85 received the same amount of consideration as a bill to rename a post office; it was ‘hotlined’ and there was no debate allowed on this issue and no legislative language provided to consider. There was no vote.
S. Res. 85 described a no-fly zone as a “possible” course of action for the U.N. Security Council’s consideration. It did not instruct the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to take action, let alone authorize a military operation.
Using the hotline process for S. Res. 85 as a congressional endorsement for the President’s policy is simply not an adequate use of Congress’ role in authorizing military action.
The Administration unilaterally developed, planned and executed its no-fly zone policy. President Obama consulted the UN, NATO and Arab League, but did not consult what is mandated under our laws and Constitution. There was no Congressional approval or oversight of this military commitment.
S. Res. 85 simply does not authorize or endorse the use of force. It urges a multilateral body to consider a no-fly zone as a possible course of action.
That is not the legal equivalent of an authorization to use force. That is not the political equivalent of an authorization to use force.
So what is S.Res. 85? It is a disrespectful checking of the box by this Administration for congressional approval of its unilateral military decision.