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Special Report

Will Congress Enact War Powers Act in Libya?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 16, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, the administration gave its opinion on the war powers resolution but didn't answer the question in my letter as whether the office of legal council agrees with them.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was a robust debate as you might expect in this situation. And that led the president to his view that the War Powers Resolution 60-day termination provision did not apply here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: White House today suggesting there was an interim debate about the War Powers Act and whether they could move forward. The president saying they could.

We're back with the panel. Charles, now you have a number of Democrats outside of Dennis Kucinich who filed a lawsuit. But now Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois says that he believes that we are engaged in Libya, quote, "It's a matter that we should come under the War Powers Resolution. I believe we as Congress should consider it under the War Powers Resolution and that's the right course of action." What about this back and forth?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I understand why Congress wants to retain prerogatives, as does the president. I'm not surprised that Durbin would act this way. I am surprised that so many Republicans are jumping on the War Powers Resolution. They will regret it. Because if you have a Republican in office, you're gonna have isolationists Democrats trying to restrain his exercise of his powers under the Constitution and the Republicans aren't going to like it.

I would not truck in War Powers Resolution. I have also think the administration's defense of what it is doing is extremely week and misguided. Obama's answer essentially is well, the resolution is out there. But it's not relevant because this isn't really a war, which is absurd and insulting.

BAIER: We're not in hostilities.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. What he should say is, I, like every other of my predecessors, I do not recognize the legality of this act and its authority over the presidency. And that's where he should make his stand.

BAIER: But when he was Senator Obama he spoke exactly the opposite.

KRAUTHAMMER: And as a president he is implicitly supporting the resolution and saying well it just doesn't apply here. That implies that if this were a real war, as he pretends it's not. I would have to comply. And no president ought to do that.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: This is a real war. And I just don't know how you get around the War Powers Act. It's a 1973 act. I don't think this is the time to challenge it. And it's creating real fissures. Charles spoke about what's going on among Republicans. And among Democrats, real pain, because you have people who are saying this is totally illegitimate, that it is a real war and how can you make the case --

Now the administration says, we don't have boots on the ground. We're just trying to support this multilateral action. The fact is, the United States has been the lead actor in this conflict all along.

BAIER: So if this was the Bush administration, and we do this often at this table, but if it was, the left would be a lot louder about this --

WILLIAMS: Well, the left is getting louder now. I mean, ya know, it's not to the point where anybody's gonna challenge President Obama in the primaries -- the Democratic primaries, but you get people like Russ Feingold, Lynn Woolsey and others, you know, you just talked about Chuck Shum-- ya know, there are people who are really exercised but being told -- including John Kerry at the Senate Foreign Relations working with Senator McCain to bring up an authorization but stopped.

BAIER: Speaking of Senator McCain, he supports the action in Libya. He spoke about it today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: We are in a state of hostilities. And the only result of further delay and confusion over Congress' role in this debate will be to continue ceding the initiative to the strongest critics of our actions in Libya.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Jonah?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I'm sorta with these guys. It is a bizarre mess that Washington has made for itself. I agree with Charles that the War Powers Act is a nonsensical law. I think it's unconstitutional. But it has been accepted as the law of the land for going on what? Going on 40 years now. And you've had both parties buy into it to one extent or another. Presidents, until Obama have rejected it.

So now we have Obama trying to defend the law, while acting in flagrant illegal violation of it. And the Republicans who generally think it's an unconstitutional law trying to apply a law they don't think is constitutional. It's a real mess.

BAIER: Quickly, if Qaddafi is either killed or leaves, this goes off the map. But if it drags on, this whole thing becomes a big problem.

KRAUTHAMMER: Yeah, it would become a revolt. And I would say to answer your earlier question, if the Bush administration were in power, the Democrats especially on the left would be in Greek riot mode. So it would be a serious -- the response is a muted one, because you've got a Democrat in office.

WILLIAMS: And the second thing is the rebels are making progress. And the hope is that the pace picks up and the argument will be settled that way.

BAIER: That is it for this panel. But stay tuned for part of the debate Monday we apparently missed.

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