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With War Powers Act Deadline Looming, Libya Stalemate Continues

Mahmoud Jibril

Mahmoud Jibril, representative for foreign affairs with the Libyan Transitional National Council, a political group opposed to the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, listens during a news conference in Washington, Wednesday, May 11. 2011.AP2011

As a congressional deadline on military action in Libya looms next Friday, and both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill question the mission, the situation on the ground is at a stalemate two months after the conflict started.

President Obama, through his constitutional authority with the War Powers Act, gave the go-ahead for the Libyan mission, which included military support on a United Nations resolution enforcing a no-fly zone. The administration however does not classify the conflict as a "war."

The War Powers Act was put into place in 1973 after the Vietnam war. It allows a president to deploy troops to a combat zone for 60 days before requiring approval from Congress. U.S. troops began enforcing the U.N. no-fly zone in Libya on March 19 in an effort to support Libyan rebels in their fight against Muammar al-Qaddafi.

Rebels continue to hold Benghazi and other towns in the east of Libya while forces loyal to Qaddafi control Tripoli and other major cities.

Mahmoud Jibril, the rebel leader, was in Washington meeting with key administration officials including National Security Adviser Tom Donilon at the White House. Jibril would like the U.S. to give the rebels more than $30 billion in frozen Libyan money and get official recognition as a Libya's legitimate government.

While the Obama administration thinks that's premature, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said The Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) is credible.

"I don't anticipate action like that. I can tell you that we believe that the TNC is a credible and legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people," Carney said. "And the question of recognition is one of many policy issues still under review. And we are continuing to assess the capabilities of the TNC as we deepen our engagement with the opposition."

Jibril's visit comes as officials say the U.S. is evaluating its role ahead of the War Powers Act expiration.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., downplays the War Powers Act's role.

"Well first of all, no president has recognized the constitutionality of the War Powers Act and nor do I, and there doesn't seem to be any great movement towards acting," McCain told Fox News.

But another senior Republican said Americans deserve more answers and lawmakers should render judgment on the mission.

"At this stage, congressional leaders have not committed to a debate, and it is uncertain whether majorities could be assembled for any particular resolution," said Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

Anti-war Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, says when Congress gets back from its recess, lawmakers will be able to weigh in.

"The president, like him or not, violated the Constitution by taking us into a war against Libya without having the consent of Congress. That's very clear," Kucinich said. "The War Powers Act gives us an opportunity to be able to have a vote on it."

President Obama is likely to give lawmakers and the public some answers about Libya next Thursday when he gives a major address from the State Department on Africa and the Middle East.

Fox News' Kimberly Schwandt contributed to this report.

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.