House Rejects Obama on Libyan War, but Does Not Cut Funds

The House overwhelmingly rejected a measure giving President Obama the authority to continue the U.S. military operation against Libya on Friday, a major repudiation of the commander in chief.

The total cost of United States operations in Lbya is expected to top $1 billion by the end of September. Photo: By Jerome Starkey/Flickr

The House resoundingly rejected a bill to authorize United States military operations in Libya on Friday thus dealing a symbolic blow to President Obama. But the chamber also defeated a measure that would have limited financing to support those efforts.

House members rejected a measure to authorize the Libya mission for a year while prohibiting U.S. ground forces in the North African nation, a resolution Obama had said he would welcome.

The resolution to support the mission failed 295 to 123, with 70 Democrats joining Republicans in a rebuff to Mr. Obama.

The resolution was based on a Senate bill written by Senators John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

Jay Carney, a White House spokesman, said: “We are disappointed by that vote. We think now is not the time to send the kind of mixed message that it sends when we are working with our allies to achieve the goals that we believe that are widely shared in Congress.”

He added that that these goals included “protecting civilians in Libya, enforcing a no-fly zone, enforcing an arms embargo and further putting pressure” on Libya’s leader Muammar Qaddafi.

A second bill, which had the strong support of Speaker John A. Boehner, was aimed at prohibiting money for military operations outside of support activities like search and rescue, operational planning, aerial refueling, and intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance.

This bill failed 238 to 180, with 89 Republicans deserting their party and only 36 Democrats voting in favor.

The votes on Friday followed two hours of sometimes fierce debate that was unlike any other in this 112th Congress.

“We don’t have enough wars going on?” asked Representative Dennis J. Kucinich. “We have to wage war against another nation which did not attack us?”

Dan Burton of Indiana, a Republican member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said, “We’re adding to the debt by going into a war we shouldn’t be in. My big concern is not just Libya. My big concern is this president, unless we send a very strong message to him, may take us into Syria. There are a lot of wars of opportunity.”

Friday’s votes showed lawmakers’ concerns about an open-ended U.S. commitment to a civil war between Moammar Qaddafi and rebel forces looking to remove him — as well as growing weariness among Americans with drawn-out conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What is more, a great number rejecting the authority resolution is a clear sign of anger toward the president for failing to seek congressional consent for the operation within 60 days, as stated in the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Republicans and Democrats argued that an arrogant Obama had run roughshod over the Constitution, ignoring the authority of the legislative branch that the founding fathers had insisted has the power to declare war.

Representative Tom Rooney said: “The last thing that we want as Americans is for some president, whether it’s this president or some future president, to be able to pick fights around the world without any debate from another branch of government.”

“I support the removal of the Libyan regime. I support the president’s authority as commander in chief, but when the president chooses to challenge the powers of the Congress I, as speaker of the House, will defend the constitutional authority of the legislature,” said Speaker John Boehner.

Under that law, presidents must end unauthorized deployments 60 days after notifying Congress that they have begun. If what the United States military is doing in Libya constitutes “hostilities” — the administration argues that it does not — then that deadline passed on May 20. [via Yahoo! and The New York Times]

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