Boehner struggles badly with War Powers Act

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) notified President Obama yesterday that, as of this Sunday, the administration may be in violation of the War Powers Act in light of the ongoing efforts in Libya. Boehner also demanded a formal legal justification for the operation.

“[I]t would appear that in five days, the administration will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless it asks for and receives authorization from Congress or withdraws all U.S. troops and resources from the mission,” the Speaker wrote in a letter.

There are quite a few interesting angles to this, but the one that stands out for me is the fact that Boehner said the exact opposite two week ago.

The Ohio Republican told reporters on Wednesday [June 1] that Obama was “technically” in compliance with the War Powers Act, despite criticism from the left and right over U.S. involvement in the Libya campaign.

“There are a lot of questions that remain out there, and frankly I think members on both sides of the aisle are looking for answers about this, and they’re looking for some clarity,” Boehner said. “Legally, they’ve met their requirements [under] the War Powers Act.”

As Ben Armbruster explained, “According to the War Powers resolution, a president who commits the U.S. military to war must explain his or her legal reasoning within 60 days. The 60-day period could then only be extended to 90 days if the president comes to Congress requesting more time to end the military campaign in question. Obama has not made any such certification effort. So the White House has technically been in violation of the Act since May 18. Yet on June 1, Boehner said that the President was in compliance with the Act.”

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in the intricacies of the law, and can’t speak with any authority on which of Boehner’s two competing beliefs is the correct one. What I am curious about is why the Speaker is contradicting himself so shamelessly, and what led him to change his mind.*

If Obama had “legally” met his requirements under the law on June 1, nothing changed over the last two weeks, and no new deadlines have been missed. Indeed, Boehner doesn’t even believe the War Powers Act is constitutional and has voted for its repeal.

So what’s with all the sudden grandstanding this week? Sen. John McCain asked his fellow Republicans this week, “If this were a Republican president, would you be trying to impose these same conditions?”

That need not be a rhetorical question.

* fixed