House rebukes Obama on Libya war

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, walks from the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2011, during debate over funding for U.S. military action in Libya. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Challenging presidential power, a defiant U.S. House voted overwhelmingly Friday to deny President Barack Obama the authority to wage war against Libya. But Republicans fell short in an effort to actually cut off funds for the operation in a constitutional showdown reflecting both political differences and unease over American involvement.

In a repudiation of their commander in chief, 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 vote was 295-123 with 70 Democrats abandoning the president just one day after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had made an unusual appeal to rank-and-file members. A Senate committee is to consider the same resolution next Tuesday and is expected to support it, raising the prospect of conflicting messages from Congress.

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

In addition, the resounding number rejecting the authority resolution was 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.

While Republican as well as Democratic presidents have often ignored the War Powers Resolution, a frustrated House voted earlier this month to rebuke Obama for failing to provide a “compelling rationale” for the Libyan mission and for launching U.S. military forces without congressional approval. They requested a report to Congress on the operation.

Obama further incensed lawmakers last week when he said he didn’t need authorization because the operation did not rise to full-blown hostilities, a decision he reached by overruling some of his advisers.

It’s not about Gadhafi, foes of the authorization said.

“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, R-Ohio.

Added Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla.: “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.”

The rejected money-cutoff bill, sponsored by Rooney, would have barred drone attacks and airstrikes but allowed the United States to continue actions in support of the NATO-led operation such as intelligence gathering, refueling and reconnaissance. The effort to cut off money was defeated, 238-180. While GOP leaders backed the measure, they didn’t pressure Republicans to support it.

Supporting Obama, Democrats opposed to the votes argued that they would empower Gadhafi, aggravate NATO allies desperately needed in the fight in Afghanistan and send a dispiriting message to those who led the Arab spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.

They reminded lawmakers of Gadhafi’s role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and said he had American blood on his hands.

“The message will go all over the world, the message will go to Moammar Gadhafi, the message will go to our NATO allies, the message will go to every nation of the world that America does not keep faith with its allies,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

The authorization vote marked the first time since 1999 that either chamber had voted against backing a military action. The last time was to limit President Bill Clinton’s authority to use ground forces in Kosovo. There will be no immediate effect on American involvement in the NATO-led mission in Libya, the same as in 1999.

Since NATO took command of the operation in early April, the U.S. role has largely been limited to support efforts such as intelligence and electronic warfare. However, the U.S. has launched airstrikes and drone attacks, flying more than 3,200 sorties. The effort has included 39 drone attacks and 80 strikes with jet fighters.

The bill to cut off funds failed, in part, because several Republicans feared that even a vote for limited authorization for a NATO support mission amounted to support for the war effort.

“By dictating to President Obama how he can use American military forces in support of the NATO effort in Libya, we would authorize him to continue the same mission he has been carrying out for the past three months without congressional approval,” said Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.

The votes Friday were not the last word in the House. Lawmakers plan to target money for Libya when the House considers the defense spending bill the week of July 4.

Reacting to the votes, Clinton said she would have preferred a different outcome on the authorization vote but was “gratified that the House decisively rejected” the bill to cut funds.

“We need to stand together across party lines and across both branches of government with the Libyan people and with our friends and allies and against Gadhafi,” Clinton said.

In Benghazi, Libya, rebel spokesman Jalal el-Gallal, said he didn’t know why the House voted against the authorization measure.

“America is the beating heart of democracy and should support the birth of a democracy in our time,” he said. “I believe the American people will put the pressure on the government to change its mind.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We think now is not the time to send the kind of mixed message that it sends when we’re working with our allies to achieve the goals that we believe that are widely shared in Congress: protecting civilians in Libya, enforcing a no-fly zone, enforcing an arms embargo and further putting pressure on Gadhafi.”

The authorization resolution mirrors a Senate measure sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider that resolution on Tuesday, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has indicated it has the panel’s support.

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Associated Press writers Jim Abrams, Lolita C. Baldor and Matthew Lee in Washington and Hadeel al-Shalchi in Libya contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

9 Responses to "House rebukes Obama on Libya war"

  1. Carl Nemo  June 25, 2011 at 8:09 am

    It’s always the same old story of faux rebuke and outrage, but they refuse to exercise the will of the American people. The House is that of “We the People”; I.E., a platform for summary dissent at America’s grassroots level via our Congressional District Reps, but time and again these bought off, corporate friendly shills continue to support imperialistic adventurism in far off places.

    We’re using NATO as our surrogate to do our dirty work since we supply the $$ support for that org. They need to quit listening to the likes of “Shrillery Clinton” our addled SOS. Both she and her former President hubby are experts at selling out U.S. interests. Check out “Chinagate” and get up to speed about these two as to what they’ll do and have done in the past all for a buck, Euro or shekel more. The American people have very short memories for sure.

    I can overlook the U.S. Senate because it’s always been a gentlemen’s club of wealthy elitists who’s mission is to look out for the monied interests, but not the House. They control the purse strings for the maintenance of this ongoing nonsense.

    While they’re at it, they need to pull the plug on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and everywhere else we’re beating the drums for perpetual perma-wars while sticking our ugly noses in everyone’s business.

    They’re busy with deficit/budget problems; then this is the best place to start…no?! / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • griff  June 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      You can learn a lot from history. Our fearless leaders have…Bread and circuses. Entertain the masses.

  2. griff  June 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Strange use of words by the author, referring to Obama as the House’s commander in chief. The president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but doesn’t have the power to commit troops to combat unless a declaration of war has been passed by the Congress. As per the Constitution, any way.

    Enter the War Powers Act, which gives the president ninety days to play general, and then congressional approval must be sought.

    Say what you will about Bush, but to my recollection he never violated that law. But what a strange turn of events these last few years. Actually, let’s go back a little further…

    The Republicans were opposed to Clinton’s nation-building adventures all over the world. Then they came to power, and changed their minds.

    The Democrats were opposed to Bush’s imperial wars for oil. Then they came to power, and changed their minds.

    We won’t mention the Democrats’ opposition to Bush’s deficit spending. I was under the impression that they were unhappy with the size of the deficit, and it turns out that they were…It wasn’t nearly big enough!

  3. freecitizen  June 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    “Challenging” “defiant” “repudiation” “abandoning”. Not at all words that accurately describe the house of Representatives. More appropiate words and phrases would be like “whipped curs” “spineless” “cowards” “traitors” and the like.

    Pass a resolution that “wags there fingers” at the pres for being a bad boy but does nothing to stop him. And as you can see below by boehner’s quote he agrees with what Obama is doing, which is not the point of the resolution.

    “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, R-Ohio.

    Poor speaker boehner,bypassed as an underling beneath notice by the most powerful corporate shill and warmonger in the WH and his whittle feewings get hurt!

  4. Almandine  June 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I just watched “JFK” again and was reminded anew by his fate of the terrible military-industrial power wielded behind the scenes of our government that no single man can withstand. No wonder modern politicians cringe in fear and shy away from honest governance in unmitigated self-disrespect… vis-a-vis self-preservation. Add the ruthless national security “anti-terrorists” to the mix and it is no wonder as to why our future portends totalitarianism, not liberty.

    Unfortunately, it would take a frigid day in hell for enough folks to notice the difference. Even if they did, nothing much would happen.

    Go fishing, drink a beer, listen to your favorite music, satisfy the wife, hug your kids and dog… enjoy life and know that they can’t. You win.

  5. b mcclellan  June 25, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Don’t forget the duct tape, plastic sheeting, and your flu shot Al.

    • Almandine  June 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      If it comes to that… bend over and kiss yourself.

  6. David  June 26, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    The countries involved in the conflict were at a loss for what to do from the very beginning. But it’s hard to predict the future of Libya when the countries involved in the conflict are guided by their national interests. The positive outcome just before the presidential election is one of the reasons they are so reluctant to finish this war.

  7. Carl Nemo  June 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Good thoughts David in that conflicts like these can and will be used for political ends. Timing is key…no? The 2012 Presidential election is quite some time off, so continually funding NATO so they can pound munitions into sandhills until then is going to be a bit spendy. We really can’t afford this nonsense, but our leadership doesn’t care. The Fed will simply order the Treasury to have the Bureau of Engraving ‘legally’ counterfeit some more funny money to fund this debacle.

    It seems ol’ Gadhafi has been our duty ‘punching bag’ for quite some time starting back during the Reagan/H.W. Bush era. Seemingly it’s time for the Democrats to resurrect the guy for another round of the ‘Let’s ruff up ol’ Gadhafi game’…no? It’s a great distraction from the trials and tribulations we’re experiencing on the home front.

    Here’s a link to an article to which I replied in May of 2007 about Reagan/H.W. Bush using Libya to demonstrate our ‘gunboat (airstrike)’ diplomacy at its finest…NOT!

    http://whitenoiseinsanity.com/2007/05/14/is-muammar-gaddafi-in-a-coma/

    Carl Nemo **==

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