(Paulding County, Georgia) The Obama administration and Defense Secretary Panetta are contending that when offensive military action is needed, it does not have to go to Congress first for permission but that international agreements, the UN or NATO can override Congressional acts of authorization of war or use of force.
At a hearing that was held in Washington on March 7, 2012, Sen. Sessions of the Senate Armed Services Committee questioned not only Defense Secretary Leon Panetta but also of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey about offensive military action and the permissions that are needed.
Both Panetta and General Dempsey indicated that "international permission," rather than Congressional approval, provided a 'legal basis' for military action by the United States.
In other words, they explained that they didn’t need permission by the Congress and can pursue offensive military action without Congress’ involvement and that the UN would dictate when and how the hostilities would occur, therefore bypassing the War Powers Act.
As a result, a resolution bill, HR 107, has been introduced in Congress by Republican US Congressman Walter Jones, Jr. of North Carolina that addresses this issue.
The bill, H. Con. Resolution 107 states; “Expressing the sense of Congress that the use of offensive military force by a President without prior and clear authorization of an Act of Congress constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under Article II, section 4 of the Constitution.
Whereas the cornerstone of the Republic is honoring Congress's exclusive power to declare war under article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that, except in response to an actual or imminent attack against the territory of the United States, the use of offensive military force by a President without prior and clear authorization of an Act of Congress violates Congress's exclusive power to declare war under article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution and therefore constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under article II, section 4 of the Constitution.”
The statements by Panetta and Gen. Dempsey caught the eye of one of the 2012 Presidential Republican candidates, Newt Gingrich who stated, “I have been told that the secretary of defense has suggested that international agreements override the Congress. If he believes that, he should resign tonight.”
Before the end of the hearing, Sen. Sessions stated, “Well I’m all for having international support, but I’m really baffled by the idea that somehow an international assembly provides a legal basis for the United States military to deploy in combat. I don’t believe it’s close to being correct.”
A portion of the hearing can be seen in the associated video.