White House to make case for Libya conflict

With key deadlines looming, the White House vowed to answer critics of the conflict in Libya who have demanded detailed explanations of the cost, legal rationale, and goal of the operations.

"We are in the final stages of preparing extensive information for the House and Senate that will address a whole host of issues about our ongoing efforts in Libya," national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

Vietor said the response to escalating criticisms of the nearly three-month conflict, which is broadly unpopular with the US public, would include a legal analysis showing the administration acted properly with regard to a 1973 law designed to curb presidential war-making powers.

Two congressional sources said the White House was expected on Wednesday to provide what one called "a big report" to run "over 40 pages" defending President Barack Obama's handling of the conflict and answering his critics.

The new pledge came after Republican US House Speaker John Boehner sent Obama a scathing letter warning that US operations in the Libya conflict would violate US law come Sunday because they lacked formal congressional approval.

Boehner cited the 1973 War Powers Act -- never endorsed by any White House -- that gives presidents 60 days to get authorization for a military deployment and, failing that, sets a further 30 days to withdraw them from harm's way.

"It 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 US troops and resources from the mission," he said.

Boehner also gave Obama until Friday to share his legal justification for not seeking explicit congressional approval for using US forces as part of what is now a NATO-led campaign against Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi's forces.

"Given the gravity of the constitutional and statutory questions involved, I request your answer by Friday, June 17," Boehner said in his latest challenge to Obama on his handling of a conflict deeply unpopular with the US public.

In addition to the 90-day timeframe set by the War Powers Act, Obama faced a June 17 deadline set in a House of Representatives measure passed two weeks ago to detail the likely costs and duration of the campaign and its final goal.

The US Constitution reserves to Congress the right to declare war but makes US presidents the commanders-in-chief of the military, and administrations since the war powers law have not shied from deploying forces with lawmakers' say-so.

Boehner, the third-highest ranking US elected official, scolded Obama for "the lack of clarity" in his Libya policy and accused him of "a refusal" to respect Congress's role with proper consultations or follow the 1973 measure.

Vietor countered that, since March 1, Obama aides had testified at over 10 hearings that included detailed discussions of the conflict and took part in some 30 member or staff briefings "and we will continue to consult."

Some of Boehner's criticisms echoed complaints from supporters of efforts to oust Kadhafi that Obama has not done enough to convince the US public that the mission is important.

The speaker urged the president to "use your unique authority as our president to engage the American people regarding our mission in Libya."

"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," said Boehner.

The fight came amid growing support in Congress among even supporters of the conflict for requiring regular progress reports and as two lawmakers, Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich and Republican Representative Walter Jones, said they would file a lawsuit against Obama over Libya.

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