Congress Doesn’t Want Power Over Whether Or Not The United States Keeps Bombing Libya

Doug Mataconis rounds up reporting on congressional concern about the looming expiration of the 60-day window for military action in Libya under the War Powers Act and finds that nobody gives a damn.

This returns us to the core point about executive unilateralism and warmaking powers—Congress is getting what it wants. Nobody is interested in trying to do anything around the War Powers Act, nobody is threatening to use the debt ceiling as leverage to assert congressional control over the war, nobody wanted to use the FY 2011 appropriations fight to assert congressional control over the war, etc., etc., etc. By contrast see how interested Congress suddenly becomes in military management any time any president of either party tries to cancel a weapons system or close a military base.

The upshot is that our system Congress has enormous power over all kinds of things but only if they actually want to use it. But over the years, Congress has shown very little interest in constraining presidential warmaking power. At times presidents have shown interest in demanding that congress vote on their war proposals—like when George W Bush forced a vote on invading Iraq timed right before the 2002 midterms but months before he initiated military action—but that’s something initiated by the White House for political purposes. For most of the same reasons, members prefer to duck votes on these things when possible.