Obama: Libya military action is legal

President Obama delivers his address on Libya at the National Defense University in Washington, March 28, 2011.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
President Obama delivers address on Libya
President Obama delivers his address on Libya at the National Defense University in Washington, March 28, 2011.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

While hoping to avoid a Constitutional showdown with Congress over the War Powers Resolution, the White House says President Obama has all the authority he needs for the U.S. military intervention in Libya.

A day after Speaker of the House John Boehner served notice that Mr. Obama might be in violation of the War Powers Resolution starting Sunday, the White House sent Congress a 32-page report detailing U.S. military operations in Libya as part of a NATO-led coalition.

The report also provides a White House legal analysis of the requirements of the War Powers Resolution.

"The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization," says the report.

Speaker Boehner says Mr. Obama is compelled to obtain specific congressional authorization for U.S. military operations in Libya by Sunday, the 90-day mark since the president formally notified Congress of the Libya intervention.

And a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers filed suit today in federal court against Mr. Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates for taking military action against Libya without authorization from Congress.

The White House legal analysis says the authorization provision of the War Powers Resolution does not apply because "U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition."

Further, says the White House, U.S. operations in the Libya intervention "do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors."

And though the White House insists Mr. Obama needs no further Congressional authorization, the report says the Administration strongly supports passage of a bipartisan resolution drafted by Senators McCain and Kerry, among others, that would "confirm that both branches (of Government) are united in their commitment to supporting the aspirations of the Libyan people for political reform and self-government."

The administration also argues that it has "consulted extensively" with Congress about the U.S. engagement in Libya. The report cites 10 congressional hearings, over 30 briefings for members of Congress or staff; dozens of phone calls with members of Congress and 32 status updates via e-mail to over 1,600 Congressional staff."

The Speaker's office is said to be reviewing the White House document, but spokesman Brendan Buck was quick to say the "creative arguments" made in the report "must be further explored."

"The Commander-in-Chief has a responsibility to articulate how U.S. military action is vital to our national security and consistent with American policy goals," says Buck. "With Libya, the President has fallen short on this obligation."

Buck says the Speaker hopes and expects that the White House report "will serve as the beginning, not the end, of the President's explanation for continued American operations in Libya."

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.