The 60-day period accorded President Clinton to engage U.S. troops in
hostilities without congressional approval officially expired yesterday
— at least that’s what certain members of Congress who oppose the
bombing in Yugoslavia say in claiming the president is now in violation
of the War Powers Resolution Act of 1973.
“President Clinton has nothing left to claim,” said Rep. Ron Paul,
R-Texas. “He is in complete violation of the War Powers Resolution,
there is simply no other interpretation.”
Twenty-six congressional members, led by Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif,
and Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, had filed a lawsuit against Clinton at the
end of April for violating both the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers
Resolution by allowing U.S. forces to participate in NATO air attacks
against Yugoslavia. The lawsuit maintains that, according to the War
Powers Resolution Act, Clinton must seek congressional approval for the
Balkan war if he wished to pursue it beyond 60 days. It began March 26.
With the deadline now here and with no indication from Clinton that
he will seek congressional approval for the war, these 26 members of
Congress hope to challenge Clinton’s actions in court.
Regarding the lawsuit, Suhail Khan, Campbell’s press secretary, said
that it is hoped that the motion will be heard in front of a judge by
June 3. However, delay tactics by both the White House and the
Department of Justice are expected, Khan said.
With an earlier vote by Congress, which defeated a bill that would
have given Clinton the authorization he needed to conduct military
operations against Yugoslavia, Campbell’s office said that it was clear
the president was now violating constitutional law that states only
Congress can declare war. Campbell said that Congress must reassert
this power with the lawsuit.
“Our troops are in a state of war in Kosovo. To say anything else is
sophistry. To use circumlocution and verbal distinctions is
unconscionable where American servicemen and women’s lives are at
stake,” said Campbell.
“Congress cannot escape from its responsibility to decide when
American armed forces are to be committed in war overseas,” continued
Campbell. “We cannot surrender our constitutional right, and our
constitutional obligation. We must reassert it. This litigation will
Campbell mentioned that no “inherent” power of the president as
commander in chief gives him the authority to declare war where there
was no attack against the United States, no summons from an ally under
attack or no emergency that prevented congressional deliberation.
Kucinich, who wasn’t available for further comment, initially
supported Clinton’s initiatives placing American troops in the war-torn
Balkan region as a peace-keeping force, but now, he challenges NATO’s
justification for “its military campaign against civilians” and wonders
what the bombing has accomplished.
Paul, commenting on the lawsuit, of which he is a part, said, “This
president has violated the law and he must be taken to task. It is a
shame that Congress has not done more to stop the president from this
destructive course. So it is therefore incumbent upon us to resort to
the courts to force Mr. Clinton to follow his Oath of Office to uphold
the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
Referring to Clinton’s disregard for the War Powers Resolution, Paul
added, “Once again, President Clinton is demonstrating his utter
disregard for the Constitution and laws of this nation. He apparently
views himself as a king, rather than the president of a constitutional
republic; he must believe that his will is the law, rather than the
Constitution and acts of Congress. To say this president is anything
but dangerous and reckless would be a gross understatement.”
Paul expressed concern that the Balkan conflict could spread to other
nations creating a larger world conflict thereby making Americans both
at home and abroad more susceptible to the threat of terrorism and other
forms of retaliatory action.
However, he also is encouraged by the lawsuit against the president.
According to Paul, all the congressional members who signed their names
to it have legal standing because Clinton’s actions usurped Congress’
constitutional and legal rights to declare war and provide oversight.