Can Obama wage war without consent of Congress?

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Can Obama wage war without consent of Congress?
President Barack Obama, right, meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office of the White House, on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, in Washington. The meeting comes after Jordanian Air Force pilot First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh was executed by the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Obama's National Prayer Breakfast speech Thursday was criticized after he compared the actions of ISIS to slavery in the U.S. and the Crusades.
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, after a US-led coalition strike as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 15, 2014. US-led aircraft will continue bombing near the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and in western Iraq, President Barack Obama said after talks with military leaders from an international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks about the report of a video released by the Islamic State depicting the killing of a Jordanian fighter pilot, during an unrelated meeting with Americans who say they have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as 'Obamacare,' in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 3, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, after a US-led coalition strike as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 15, 2014. US-led aircraft will continue bombing near the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and in western Iraq, President Barack Obama said after talks with military leaders from an international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) testifies beside Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey (R), during the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Obama administration's strategy and military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, United States on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testifies beside US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (not seen), during the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Obama administration's strategy and military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, United States on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Erkan Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, after a US-led coalition strike as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar in the Sanliurfa province on October 15, 2014. US-led aircraft will continue bombing near the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and in western Iraq, President Barack Obama said after talks with military leaders from an international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama chairs a special meeting of the UN security council during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2014 in New York. Obama pitched an international counterterrorism resolution during his second appearance as chair of the United Nations Security Council. The president called on nations to stop the flow of foreign fighters to groups such as the Islamic State (IS) group, according to administration officials. AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives with Secretary of State John Kerry (rear) to chair a special meeting of the UN security council during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2014 in New York. Obama on Wednesday led the UN Security Council in unanimously approving a binding resolution on stemming the flow of foreign jihadists to Iraq and Syria. The resolution requires all countries to adopt laws that would make it a serious crime for their nationals to join jihadist groups such as Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front. AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers a prime time address from the Cross Hall of the White House on September 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Vowing to target the Islamic State with air strikes 'wherever they exist', Obama pledged to lead a broad coalition to fight IS and work with 'partner forces' on the ground in Syria and Iraq. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry looks out over Baghdad from a helicopter on September 10, 2014. Kerry flew into Iraq today for talks with its new leaders on their role in a long-awaited new strategy against Islamic State jihadists to be unveiled by President Barack Obama. AFP PHOTO/POOL/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama, watch as the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team perform a flypast during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama, center, react as they talk with Traian Basescu, Romania's president, ahead of a flypast by the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama leaves after speaking during a televised address at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Obama pledged a relentless campaign to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, with Middle Eastern allies such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing crucial supporting roles. Photographer: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg
David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, left, reacts as he talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, ahead of a flypast by the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama, waits ahead of a flypast by the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama, waits ahead of a flypast by the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
US President Barack Obama speaks at a press conference on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. The United States urged Western allies at a NATO summit Friday to unite in a coalition that could 'destroy' Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama speaks in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in Edgartown, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. The president said the US will continue to confront Islamic State extremists despite the brutal murder of journalist James Foley. Obama said the entire world is "appalled" by Foley's killing. The president says he spoke Wednesday with Foley's family and offered condolences. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
John and Diane Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Diane and John Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
US President Barack Obama makes a statement at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on August 20, 2014. The United States has carried out more air strikes in Iraq, a senior US defense official said, as Islamic militants threaten to execute a second US journalist. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Friday, May 27, 2011, file photo, journalist James Foley responds to questions during an interview with The Associated Press, in Boston. A video by Islamic State militants that purports to show the killing of Foley by the militant group was released Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Foley, from Rochester, N.H., went missing in 2012 in northern Syria while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - In this May 27, 2011 file photo, American journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., who was last seen on Nov. 22 2012 in northwest Syria, poses for a photo in Boston. Foley's family plans to mark his 40th birthday with a plea for his safe return. His parents, John and Diane Foley, will lead a prayer vigil Friday evening, Oct. 17, 2013 at a church in Rochester. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Parents of kidnapped journalist James Foley, Diane Foley and John Foley appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama gestures during a press conference on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. The United States urged Western allies at a NATO summit Friday to unite in a coalition that could 'destroy' Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama, watch as the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) Red Arrows aerobatic team perform a flypast during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Newport, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Obama, after levying sharp criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promising decisive action against Islamic State, is working to take advantage of growing international uneasiness to rally NATO into action. Photographer: Rowan Griffiths/Pool via Bloomberg
US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Jordan's King Abdullah II prior to a meeting on the first day of the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on September 4, 2014. The NATO summit billed as the most important since the Cold War got underway with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister David Cameron (R), US President Barack Obama (2nd R) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (3rd R) bow their heads during a moment of silence for killed service members in Afghanistan at the start of a meeting on Afghanistan during the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on September 4, 2014. The NATO summit billed as the most important since the Cold War got underway with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (C) as Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron looks on at the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on September 4, 2014. A NATO summit billed as the most important since the Cold War got underway with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists. AFP PHOTO/POOL/PETER MACDIARMID (Photo credit should read PETER MACDIARMID/AFP/Getty Images)
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By STEPHEN BRAUN

WASHINGTON (AP) - On the cusp of intensified airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, President Barack Obama is using the legal grounding of the congressional authorizations President George W. Bush relied on more than a decade ago to go to war. But Obama has made no effort to ask Congress to explicitly authorize his own conflict.

The White House said again Friday that Bush-era congressional authorizations for the war on al-Qaida and the Iraq invasion give Obama authority to act without new approval by Congress under the 1973 War Powers Act. That law, passed during the Vietnam War, serves as a constitutional check on presidential power to declare war without congressional consent. It requires presidents to notify Congress within 48 hours of military action and limits the use of military forces to no more than 60 days unless Congress authorizes force or declares war.

"It is the view of this administration and the president's national security team specifically that additional authorization from Congress is not required, that he has the authority that he needs to order the military actions," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. He said there were no plans to seek consent from Congress. "At this point we have not, and I don't know of any plan to do so at this point," he said.

The administration's tightly crafted legal strategy has short-circuited the congressional oversight that Obama once championed. The White House's use of post-9/11 congressional force authorizations for the broadening air war has generated a chorus of criticism that the justifications are, at best, a legal stretch.

"Committing American lives to war is such a serious question, it should not be left to one person to decide, even if it's the president," said former Illinois Rep. Paul Findley, 92, who helped write the War Powers Act.

As a U.S. senator from Illinois running for president in 2007, Obama tried to prevent Bush's administration from taking any military action against Iran unless it was explicitly authorized by Congress. A Senate resolution Obama sponsored died in committee.

Nearly seven years later, U.S. fighter jets and unmanned drones armed with missiles have flown 150 airstrikes against the Islamic State group over the past five weeks in Iraq under Obama's orders - even though he has yet to formally ask Congress to authorize the expanding war. Obama told the nation Wednesday he would unleash U.S. strikes inside Syria for the first time, along with intensified bombing in Iraq, as part of "a steady, relentless effort" to root out Islamic State extremists. Obama has not said how long the air campaign will last.

The White House has cited the 2001 military authorization Congress gave Bush to attack any countries, groups or people who planned, authorized, committed or aided the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Earnest on Thursday described the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, generally known as the AUMF, as one that Obama "believes continues to apply to this terrorist organization that is operating in Iraq and Syria."

The Islamic State group, which was founded in 2004, has not been linked to the 9/11 attacks, although its founders later pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. In February, al-Qaida declared that the Islamic State group was no longer formally part of the terror organization. And in recent weeks, senior U.S. officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Matthew Olsen, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, have drawn significant distinctions between al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Earnest said Thursday that Obama welcomes support from Congress but that it isn't necessary. "The president has the authority, the statutory authority that he needs," Earnest said.

Others disagreed.

"I actually think the 2001 AUMF argument is pretty tortured," said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. "They are essentially saying that ISIL is associated with al-Qaida, and that's not obvious," Himes said, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group. "Stretching it like this has dangerous implications."

Himes supports a new congressional vote for a specific IS group authorization, as does another Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California.

There is wariness even from some former Bush administration officials. Jack Goldsmith, head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel under Bush, said in the Lawfare blog that "it seems a stretch" to connect the Islamic State group to al-Qaida, considering recent rivalry between the two groups.

The White House also finds authorization under the 2002 resolution that approved the invasion of Iraq to identify and destroy weapons of mass destruction. That resolution also cited the threat from al-Qaida, which Congress said then was operating inside Iraq. But the U.S. later concluded there were no ties between al-Qaida and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein or his government, and the group formally known as al-Qaida in Iraq - which later evolved into the Islamic State group - didn't form until 2004, after the U.S.-led invasion.

Obama is using both authorizations as authority to act even though he publicly sought their repeal last year. In a key national security address at the National Defense University in May 2013, Obama said he wanted to scrap the 2001 order because "we may be drawn into more wars we don't need to fight." Two months later, Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, asked House Speaker John Boehner to consider repealing the 2002 Iraq resolution, calling the document "outdated."

Obama has asked only for congressional backing to pay for the buildup of American advisers and equipment to aid Syrian opposition forces. House Republicans spurned a vote on that separate request earlier this week, but Boehner is now siding with the administration. The White House acknowledged it could not overtly train Syrian rebels without Congress approving the cost of about $500 million.

Since U.S. military advisers went into Iraq in June, the administration has maneuvered repeatedly to avoid coming into conflict with the War Powers provision that imposes a 60-day time limit on unapproved military action. Seven times, before each 60-day limit has expired, Obama has sent new notification letters to Congress restarting the clock and providing new extensions without invoking congressional approval. The most recent four notifications have covered the airstrikes against the Islamic State group that began Aug. 8.

An international law expert at Temple University's Beasley School of Law, Peter J. Spiro, described the letters as workarounds that amount to "killing the War Powers Act with 1,000 tiny cuts."

Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who now heads the Lugar Center for foreign affairs in Washington, said Obama could ask for congressional approval in a way that would be less formal than a specific war resolution - perhaps either as an appropriations request or a simple resolution.

"It may not be the most satisfactory way to declare war," Lugar said. "But it may be a pragmatic compromise for the moment."

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