Democrats and Republicans press Obama on Libya conflict
The House of Representatives has chided President Barack Obama for failing to obtain congressional approval of US military action in Libya, and demanded answers about his objectives.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s resolution, approved on a 268-145 vote, stopped short of calling for an end to the mission, but rebuked Obama for maintaining a role in the NATO mission while ignoring Congress.
The measure calls for a report from the White House within 14 days explaining US objectives in Libya, associated costs, the expected duration of US involvement and an explanation about why Obama didn’t seek congressional permission.
It warned that Congress “has the constitutional prerogative to withhold funding for any unauthorized use” of the US military.
“This resolution puts the president on notice,” Boehner said. “He has a chance to get this right and if he doesn’t, Congress will exercise its constitutional authority and we will make it right.”
Boehner offered his resolution amid growing support, even among Republicans, for a separate measures that sought a withdrawal of US forces involved in the NATO mission within 15 days of passage.
That resolution, proposed by antiwar Democrat Dennis Kucinich, failed 265-148, with 87 Republicans voting in favor.
Boehner said the Kucinich measure “would undermine our troops and our allies which could have serious consequences for our broader national security.”
The White House denounced the “unhelpful and unnecessary” resolutions.
Boehner noted that Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war and that presidential authority is limited by the War Powers Resolution.
Several lawmakers from both parties have recently contested Obama’s continuation of military operations in Libya under the federal law, which gives the president 60 days to seek congressional approval for military action.
That deadline, which has been routinely ignored by several presidents since the law was passed in 1973, was reached on May 20.
Obama has argued that the limited nature of American intervention in Libya is not the kind of military operation envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.
“We have continued to consult with Congress all along,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One ahead of the votes.
“In just the last week, there have been three separate congressional briefings.”
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer opposed both resolutions. He said he was satisfied by Obama’s explanation that military action was urgently needed to prevent civilians from the regime of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
“Kadhafi vowed to go ‘door to door’ to kill those who opposed him, a threat that we could not stand by and allow to be carried out,” Hoyer said in a statement. “That’s why I supported this mission.”
Still, Hoyer added that Obama “has an obligation to consult with Congress… Providing the information requested in Speaker Boehner’s resolution within the time frame suggested is both appropriate and necessary.”
Some senators are also complaining that they have been ignored. The Senate is expected to soon vote on a resolution of support for a “limited” US intervention, sponsored by Republican John McCain and Democrat John Kerry.
Kucinich had argued that the Libya intervention was a matter for Congress.
“Our loyalty to NATO and to our president, regardless of party affiliation, does not trump our loyalty to the United States Constitution,” the ardent critic of US intervention overseas wrote Thursday in a letter to his colleagues.
Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “members of both sides of the aisle are increasingly frustrated.”
“If this clear warning doesn’t get the attention of the White House, then more forceful action may be inevitable,” she added.
Boehner said Congress would consider other measures in “the weeks to come.”
“Clearly, there’s information that we want from the administration that we ask for in this resolution, and it’s information that we expect to get. But there is not any question in my mind that Congress is going to take further action in the weeks to come,” he said.