Congress to vote on curbing Libya operations
WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives will vote Friday on a resolution aimed at limiting the US military role in Libya without undermining NATO there, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday.
“This is primarily a fight between the Congress and the president over his unwillingness to consult with us before making this decision,” said Boehner, who told reporter the measure “will be on the floor tomorrow.”
The resolution would aim to cut off all funding for operations against the forces of Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi except for tasks in support of NATO allies, like aerial refueling, intelligence, or search and rescue.
“The fact is, we are there, we are engaged. I believe that NATO is an important organization. And as we’re there, I don’t want to do anything that would undermine NATO or to send a signal to our allies around the world that we are not going to be engaged,” said Boehner.
Lawmakers were also expected to take up a resolution modeled on a Senate measure to authorize the US deployment, but that was not expected to pass the House amid anger at President Barack Obama’s handling of the conflict.
“Because of the president’s failure to consult to the Congress, failure to outline to the American people why we’re doing this before we engaged in this, puts us in a position where we have to defend our responsibilities under the Constitution,” said Boehner.
The speaker said he understood the humanitarian mission but assailed the “flawed” White House policy of declaring that Kadhafi had to step down, which left lawmakers and the US public asking “how long are we going to be there?”
Many of Obama’s own Democrats have called for an end to the conflict amid polls showing the US public does not believe the United States should be involved.
The US Constitution gives Congress the prerogative to declare war, but makes the president commander-in-chief of the military.
Lawmakers have accused Obama of violating the 1973 War Powers Act aimed at limiting presidential war-making powers without the explicit say-so of congress — a law ignored by successive White House occupants.
The administration has argued the law does not apply in Libya because the US military is playing a support role, with no ground troops and little risk of casualties.
The United States joined Britain and France in attacking Kadhafi’s forces in mid-March in a UN-authorized mission to protect civilians as his troops were marching on the rebel stronghold Benghazi.
Kadhafi had threatened to go house by house in hunting down opponents of his 41-year rule, who took to the streets in February in mass protests modeled on the uprisings that brought down autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia.