WASHINGTON (AFP) – US lawmakers will consider two bills authorizing limited military action in Libya over three months after Washington joined Western allies in an air war on Moamer Kadhafi’s regime.
The bills were unveiled Tuesday night as President Barack Obama has come under fire from fellow Democrats and Republicans for failing to secure congressional authorization in accordance with the War Powers Resolution.
The administration has argued the 1973 resolution — intended to curtail presidential power — does not apply in Libya because the US military is playing a support role, with no ground troops and little risk of casualties.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner and others from both sides of the aisle have challenged that reasoning which was reportedly also rejected by top lawyers in the Pentagon and the Justice Department.
“The Obama Administration’s claim that targeted bombings, missile strikes, and other military actions in Libya do not constitute ‘hostilities’ under the War Powers Resolution is not credible,” Boehner said Tuesday.
“If the Commander-in-Chief believes that intervention in Libya is important for our national security, he has a responsibility to make a case for it — clearly and publicly — and seek authorization,” he added.
Boehner said House Republicans would meet Wednesday to consider two resolutions, one modeled on a Senate resolution authored by senior Democrat John Kerry and veteran Republican John McCain to authorize limited force.
“The resolution is not a blank check for the president. Not at all,” Kerry said, adding that it would require the military to play a supporting role and spell out the Senate’s opposition to any introduction of US ground troops.
It would also expire after one year, he said Tuesday.
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.
Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed support for the intervention but have been angered by Obama’s refusal to seek congressional authorization, with some lawmakers on both sides threatening to target funding for the war.