Seeking to head off a growing revolt in the GOP against America’s involvement in Libya, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is offering a resolution demanding the White House not deploy ground troops in the country.
The resolution states that President Obama “has failed to provide Congress with a compelling rationale based upon United States national security interests for current United States military activities regarding Libya” and requests detailed information from the White House on the mission.The legislation is intended to head off more aggressively worded resolutions by lawmakers like Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), which demand a withdrawal of US forces.
Kucinich’s resolution was scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, but House leaders pulled it at the last second when they became concerned it had enough Republican votes to pass. Boehner told reporters on Thursday that rank and file Republicans were concerned not only with the Libya conflict, but Afghanistan and Iraq as well.Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) decried both the Kucinich and Boehner resolutions in a statement on Thursday.
“The resolutions by Speaker Boehner and Congressman Kucinich, as currently drafted, do not advance our efforts in the region and send the wrong message to our NATO partners,” she said.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the Libya mission on Thursday, telling reporters that “from our vantage point there is pretty unified support in Congress for a policy that calls for the Qaddafi regime to remove itself from power.” He said the mission, which was authorized by the UN Security Council in concert with NATO, has proven “enormously successful” in protecting civilians from the ruling regime’s forces.
In addition to complaints about the mission itself, the conflict has turned into a flashpoint for a long-running legal dispute between several administrations and Congress over the President’s ability to deploy military forces abroad. According to the War Powers Act, the President has to inform Congress shortly after ordering a military operation and then seek their approval within 60 days, but no President has ever acknowledged that they are legally required to follow its provisions. Given the GOP base’s recent rhetorical emphasis on the Constitution, the issue is ripe for renewed debate.
“It’s not about Democrats versus Republicans, this is about Congress versus the executive,” Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), who has introduced a resolution calling on the President to follow the War Powers Act, told reporters on Thursday. “[Obama] could have come to Congress in that 60 days, made that argument to people like me who are very pro-military and got us on board, but decided not to do that.”
Kucinich’s resolution explicitly labels the White House’s actions unconstitutional and demands an immediate withdrawal of forces, but Boehner’s alternative shies away from a full challenge under the War Powers Act and merely asks the White House to justify its legal authority to engage Qaddafi’s forces.