The House has overwhelmingly voted down a bill that would have authorized U.S. military action in Libya after months of bipartisan outrage over President Obama’s decision to launch military strikes in the North African country without the approval of Congress.
The vote, 295 to 123, did not break along traditional party lines. A majority of Republicans concerned about budget constraints and more generally diametrically opposed to Obama’s agenda voted against the measure banding together with anti-war Democrats. Just eight Republicans voted for authorizing the Libya oepration: Reps. Charlie Dent (PA), David Dreier (CA), Steve King (IA), Peter King (NY), Thaddeus McCotter (MI), David Rivera (FL) and Mike Rogers (MI).
Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), as well as Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Dan Burton (R-IN), spoke in opposition of the bill authorizing the President’s Libya mission, while such ideologically diverse members as Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Tea Party darling Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) spoke out in favor of granting Congressional approval of the mission.
The vote is only the first of two key measures on Libya today. The second, expected as early as 1:30 p.m., would would severely limit funding for U.S. military action in Libya, what would amount to an even harsher bipartisan rebuke of Obama’s decision to seek international support for authorize force without consulting Congress.
The defunding measure is being offered by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) and would cut off funds for airstrikes or any other combat but would allow the U.S. to serve in a supporting role to the now-NATO-led operation, which would include air refueling, intelligence and search-and-rescue operations.
Support for the bill cutting off funding has been building all week, and there’s a very real chance it could pass, delivering a major blow to a sitting president’s foreign policy decisions just as his reelection campaign shifts into high gear.
The Senate has no plans to cut off funding, so the vote is largely symbolic, but it is still sends a historic message to President Obama: that Congress won’t simply stand by and allow a President to launch military action without the approval of the legislative branch.
Members of Congress across the political spectrum have expressed outrage that Obama failed to consult or win Congressional approval before moving forward with an expensive military campaign amid growing anxiety over the nation’s budget woes. Others cite the 1973 War Powers Act, which requires the White House to obtain Congressional approval for the use of military force after 60 days of first initiating it, with a 30 day extension. The combat in Libya started well over 90 days ago.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held an emergency meeting with House Democrats Thursday in an attempt to persuade them not to jump on board the defunding train. After the meeting, many Democrats remain unswayed by her arguments.