Speaker of the House John Boehner is expected to bring to a vote on Friday a remarkable resolution called H. Res. 292. This document restores a damaged U.S. Constitution to its full glory in much the way that a spray-on sunless tanning product could restore a collaterally damaged victim who had been liberated by white phosphorous.
Boehner has delayed a vote on a straightforward resolution (H.C.R. 51) that would end U.S. war in Libya. Here’s the full text:
“Pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1544(c)), Congress directs the President to remove the United States Armed Forces from Libya by not later than the date that is 15 days after the date of the adoption of this concurrent resolution.”
Boehner’s reason for delaying a vote was that the resolution might pass. So, instead, we’re going to see a vote on a seven-page self-parody of a piece of legislation. H. Res. 292 quite verbosely acknowledges that the Libya War is illegal but allows its continuation. Much of this absurd document is devoted to listing the details that should be included in a report the President must make to Congress, including items required by the War Powers Resolution, a law already on the books for whatever that’s worth. After very bravely and decisively ordering up this report, the resolution concludes with two “findings”:
“(a) The President has not sought, and Congress has not provided, authorization for the introduction or continued involvement of the United States Armed Forces in Libya.
“(b) Congress has the constitutional prerogative to withhold funding for any unauthorized use of the United States Armed Forces, including for unauthorized activities regarding Libya.”
Finding (a) admits that the war is unconstitutional and in violation as well of the War Powers Resolution. The Constitutional remedy for such a situation is impeachment. Ruling that out for lack of any witnesses who’ve had sex with the President, Congress could choose to end the war. But the resolution to simply do that has been bumped in favor of this sorry substitute. Finding (b) notes that Congress can withhold funding, but Congress has never provided any funding. When the President has access to vast sums, Congress is compelled to pass a bill requiring that no funds be spent on the war. But H. Res. 292 does not prohibit the use of funds; it just asserts Congress’ power to do such a thing should it ever see fit.
In addition to requiring a report from the President, this legislation requires the Secretaries of Defense and State, and the Attorney General, to hand over any relevant communications. Presumably this is the point, to try to find something that makes Obama look bad, even as the war rages on. Or the point may simply be to give an impression of giving a damn while ensuring that the war rages on.