Libya conflict: Backlash ensues to Obama's refusal to seek Congress's nod
Obama says US military intervention in Libya does not require consent from Congress. Many lawmakers and pundits say otherwise. The rub is over the definition of 'hostilities.'
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Boehner has suggested that the Republican-led House may invoke the power of the purse and find ways to defund military operations in Libya. Antiwar Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio said he will introduce just such a measure as part of a defense spending bill. (Or perhaps Boehner and President Obama will devise a less confrontational solution while playing golf together on Saturday.)Skip to next paragraph
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Moreover, 10 House members (Democrats and Republicans among them) sued in federal court this week, charging that the executive branch is violating the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution by not seeking congressional approval to continue US military actions, which are part of a NATO-led campaign.
On the Senate side, where there is a bit less restlessness over Libya, Sens. John McCain (R) of Arizona and John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts are expected to put forward a resolution in support of US intervention. Both senators back a continued US role in the Libya campaign, which as originally crafted in March was intended to prevent Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi from slaughtering rebels and protesters who were rising up against his regime.
The Obama administration would “welcome and support” such a resolution, said White House spokesman Jay Carney on Friday, even as he insisted that such backing is not required because the War Powers Resolution “does not apply.”
Notably, Sen. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate and a longtime ally of Mr. Obama, broke with the president over the “hostilities” matter. He, too, supports US intervention, but he says Congress should authorize it. He plans to submit a resolution that would include some limitations: No ground troops could be used in Libya, and the seal of approval would be good only through the end of the year.
It’s hard to say how Congress would vote on Libya, if it ever comes to that. Most lawmakers are upset at what they perceive to be a White House snub of Congress. Some are antiwar or isolationist, saying there’s no compelling US interest for continued intervention there. Still others are budget hawks, noting the estimated $1.1 billion price tag if the Libya campaign lasts through Sept. 27 – which is how long the Obama administration has committed to stay. Perhaps the vote would be close enough that White House would rather not test it.
For its part, the administration may be hoping the facts on the ground in Libya will make all this moot. Indeed, the NATO bombing campaign has intensified in recent days, according to news reports from Tripoli, and Qaddafi has already felt several near misses.
Libya’s prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, on Friday accused NATO of a “new level of aggression,” according to a June 18 Associated Press report. He also said it is now targeting civilian buildings. A NATO spokeswoman retorted that Qaddafi is the one “brutally attacking the Libyan people,” the AP report said.