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White House Won't Say if War Powers Resolution is Constitutional

The White House has made its case for military action in Libya, saying current involvement there does not rise to the level of hostilities described in the War Powers Resolution. But whether President Obama considers the act constitutional is not something the administration is willing to answer.

"[W]e are not making a judgment on the constitutionality of the War Powers Act with this reasoning: We are simply stating that the War Powers Resolution does not need to be involved because the hostilities clause of that resolution," Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, "is not met."

The constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution has been in question since it was first passed in 1973. The charge that it overstepped the authority of the commander-in-chief was the very reason President Richard Nixon vetoed it (before a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate overturned the veto).

In fact, every president since Nixon has taken the position that the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional. But those same administrations have also abided by it, working within the act's framework to avoid a battle with congressional leaders.

Mr. Obama has chosen not to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors. Instead, he is choosing to take another route and say it doesn't even apply to the mission in Libya. The reasoning behind that decision is up for debate.

And so is the legal argument over whether or not this conflict is covered by the War Powers.

"For me to get up and tell you that by some miracle, every lawyer in this administration was in agreement on that issue, you wouldn't believe me, because it's simply been too contentious for now 38 years," Carney said. "[T]here was not a unanimous agreement on it."

Ok, it's Obama's decision to make, and he says he doesn't have to weigh in on the Constitutional arguments surrounding the War Powers Resolution. But should the president give the people his opinion anyway?

Carney wouldn't bite when he was pressed by a reporter.

"You can ask him that when, you know, the next time we have a press conference."