Wednesday, June 8, 2011

GOP Offers Alternative to Kucinich Resolution on U.S. Role in Libya

By Emily Cadei, CQ Staff
The House is set to rebuke President Obama for his handling of the conflict in Libya, but probably with toned-down language that would not hamper the U.S. role in the mission there. The Republican caucus is rallying around a resolution sponsored by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, that would require the White House to justify its strategy on Libya within two weeks time, but would stop short of declaring the administration in violation of the 1973 War Powers Act (PL 93-148) or calling for the administration to halt its participation in the NATO-led operation. Boehner’s resolution and the alternative — a measure (H Con Res 51) sponsored by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, D-Ohio, calling for removal of U.S. forces from Libya — are both expected to be brought to the floor Friday. Republican leaders outlined the Speaker’s resolution (H Res 292) during a GOP conference Thursday. “I think ultimately the conference is likely to come down with the majority being in favor of Boehner,” Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, said, calling Boehner’s measure “more responsible” than the one offered by Kucinich, which demands the U.S. withdraw all forces within 15 days. What remains in question is how many members vote for both resolutions. It is unclear how much force of law either would carry, but at the very least they would put on record lawmakers’ sentiment about the U.S. role in Libya and Obama’s decision to involve the military in that nation’s conflict. Boehner issued a news release Thursday saying that his resolution “will enable members to clearly express the will of our constituents — in a responsible way that reflects our commitments to our allies and our troops.” He also warned members not to support the tougher resolution. “The Kucinich measure would have long-term consequences that are unacceptable, including a precipitous withdrawal from our role supporting our NATO allies in Libya — which could have serious consequences for our broader national security,” he said. “It would undermine our troops in harm’s way and undercut our allies who have stood by us in Afghanistan and other areas abroad. Regardless of how we got here, we cannot suddenly turn our backs on our troops and our NATO partners who have stuck by us for the last 10 years.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she was opposed to both resolutions. “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 in a news release. Kucinich’s resolution was up for a vote June 1 but was pulled from the floor at the last minute when it became apparent that a significant number of members were considering voting for it.
Irked Lawmakers
Lawmakers have become disgruntled less by the state of the conflict — now in its third month — and more by the fact that Obama did not seek their authorization, both before and since committing forces to the effort. The United States is now playing a supporting role in the NATO-led mission, which is aimed at protecting dissidents who have risen up against autocrat Muammar el-Qaddafi. “I’d certainly support the Speaker’s resolution, but what I have to figure out now is if I want to support Kucinich’s as well,” Tom Rooney, R-Pa., said after the conference. Rooney introduced his own resolution, with language very similar to Kucinich’s, but confirmed Thursday that it would not come up for a vote. Rooney said he expected most of his caucus “to support Boehner.” However, he said, there are still Republicans who” feel like the clock has run out on war powers,” referring to the law that requires that the president seek congressional authorization to maintain a fighting force in a conflict for more than 60 days. “Whether you agree with it or not, the Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in on it, so it is what we have to live by today,” Rooney said. “I think that you’re going to see a lot of people support both” resolutions, he added. Another initial backer of the Kucinich language, Dan Burton, R-Ind., said Thursday he had not made up his mind about whether he would vote for the Ohio Democrat’s measure. “The Speaker makes some very strong, valid points,” in urging the caucus to support his resolution and not Kucinich’s, Burton said. “But at the same time we’ve got to send an extremely strong message to the president that we don’t want this to ever happen again without consulting with the United States Congress first.” The administration warned Thursday about the national security consequences of demanding a withdrawal. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates “believes that for the United States, once committed to a NATO operation, to unilaterally abandon that mission would have enormous and dangerous long-term consequences.” Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said that was one of the reasons he would oppose the Kucinich resolution. Kinzinger, who said he believes Libya “is in our national security interests,” worried about the impact of putting a timeline on withdrawal from Libya without consulting with the military. Rooney also acknowledged Thursday that “the 15 days might be too hasty to move out of there.” However, he added, “We’re operating at almost the 90th day.” “There’s been ample opportunity, I think, for the president to come” seek authorization from Congress before it got to this point, Rooney said. In a sign that anger at the Obama administration Libya is widespread in Congress, the House on Thursday narrowly rejected a measure that would bar any funding in the fiscal 2012 Homeland Security appropriations bill from being used to support operations in the North African country. The amendment to the measure (HR 2017) fell 208-213. Its sponsor, Brad Sherman, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to his colleagues that “The War Powers Resolution is the law of the land, and we should not facilitate or tolerate its violation, even for a purportedly worthy cause.” And Sherman said he planned to offer a similar amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill when it reaches the floor in several weeks.
Alan K. Ota contributed to this story.
First posted June 2, 2011 1:41 p.m.

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