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Political Notebook

Obama pressed to define US role in Libya

President Obama addressed a crowd in Puerto Rico yesterday, the first US president to visit the island since John F. Kennedy. President Obama addressed a crowd in Puerto Rico yesterday, the first US president to visit the island since John F. Kennedy. (Brennan Linsley/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / June 15, 2011

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WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner urged President Obama yesterday to explain the legal grounds for the continued US military involvement in Libya and set a Friday deadline for the commander in chief’s response.

Ratcheting up the pressure, the Ohio Republican said in a letter to the White House that the administration clearly will be in violation of the 1973 War Powers Act this weekend. Obama did not seek congressional consent for the operation within 60 days of the March 19 US airstrikes against Moammar Khadafy’s forces.

“Either you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution,’’ Boehner wrote. “The House and the American people whom we represent deserve to know the determination you have made.’’

Boehner complained that while the administration has provided briefings for lawmakers, it has not sought formal authorization.

Earlier this month, the House voted to rebuke Obama for failing to pursue congressional approval and accused the president of not providing a “compelling rationale’’ for the Libyan operation.

“The ongoing, deeply divisive debate originated with a lack of genuine consultation prior to commencement of operations and has been further exacerbated by the lack of visibility and leadership from you and your administration,’’ Boehner wrote.

The White House maintains that it has been in compliance with the War Powers Act and has called the resolutions unhelpful and unnecessary. Last night, officials said the administration was nearing completion of an “extensive’’ response to congressional inquiries.

NATO commands the operation, but the United States still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance work.

In the Senate, the fate of a resolution signaling support for the operation was in limbo.

Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said plans for the panel to meet tomorrow and write a resolution would be delayed to allow lawmakers to review the White House report. He left open the possibility of action on a resolution next week.

“We just want everybody to see the information and see how it impacts their thinking,’’ Kerry said.

Former governor of Utah ready to jump into race
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman is joining the fast-growing pack of Republicans battling to take on President Obama.

Huntsman, who was ambassador to China until a month ago, will make his announcement Tuesday with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, his team said. Though he served for three Republican presidents, he faces a challenge in making himself known nationally and winning over GOP primary voters. (AP)

Social Security overpaid in 2009 by $4b, or 10%
WASHINGTON — The Social Security Administration made $6.5 billion in overpayments to people not entitled to receive them in 2009, including $4 billion under a supplemental income program for the very poor, a government investigator said yesterday.

In all, about 10 percent of the payments made by the agency’s Supplemental Security Income program were improper, said Patrick P. O’Carroll Jr., the inspector general for Social Security.

The program has strict limits on income and assets, and most of the overpayments went to people who did not report all their resources, O’Carroll said.

Error rates were much smaller for retirement, survivor, and disability benefits, which make up the overwhelming majority of Social Security payments, O’Carroll told a congressional panel.

“The scope of these problems is considerable,’’ said Representative Charles Boustany, Republican of Louisiana and chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee.

“Whether a payment occurs because of simple error or outright fraud, improper payments harm Social Security programs in the long term, jeopardizing benefits for those who may need them in the future. They also cost taxpayers billions of dollars.’’

Social Security also made nearly $1.5 billion in underpayments, raising the total amount of improper payments to $8 billion in the 2009 budget year, O’Carroll said. (AP)