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House Votes On Libya Split Both Parties


Yesterday, two measures were brought before the House of Representatives that might have provided such authorization, although with strings attached. Both failed. NPR's David Welna has our report.


According to the White House, President Obama does not need the permission of Congress for the Libyan intervention. That's because the president thinks the current U.S. role there in support of NATO forces does not rise to the level of hostilities. California Republican Tom McClintock dismissed that assertion yesterday on the House floor.

TOM MCCLINTOCK: The president's now on notice that he is in direct defiance of Congress. That is the message we need to send today.

WELNA: But as Minority Whip Steny Hoyer reminded colleagues, they'd already formally rebuked the president once and in doing so they had earned the gratitude of one embattled foreign leader.

STENY HOYER: Gadhafi wrote us a letter in the last debate just some weeks and thanked the House of Representatives for its debate. Is that the message we want to send to Gadhafi? I think not.

WELNA: The conflict in Libya divides Republicans as well as Democrats. Adam Kinzinger is a freshman Republican and Air Force pilot from Illinois who served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He urged colleagues to support a resolution before the House that authorized the Libyan intervention for up to one year.

ADAM KINZINGER: Don't let a dispute between the legislative branch and the executive branch result in us pulling the rug out from standing up for freedom. America has a responsibility to finish this through, to stand with our allies. To leave now means Gadhafi wins.

WELNA: But most Republicans derided the one-year authorization, which mirrors one that's pending in the Senate. Florida's Ileana Ros-Lehtinen chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

ILEANA ROS: While a complete withdrawal is unacceptable, the resolution before us is also unacceptable. Their solution effectively ratifies that all that the president has done and it would grant him the blessings of Congress to continue on his present course.

WELNA: California's Howard Berman is the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs panel. He did endorse the yearlong authorization but question why it was even brought up.

HOWARD BERMAN: Let's be honest about what's happening here. The Republican leadership allowed this resolution to come to the floor for one reason and one reason only: they know it will fail and they think its defeat will be a political defeat for the White House.

WELNA: And fail it did - only eight Republicans voted for it, while 70 anti-war Democrats joined the rest of the Republicans in voted against it. A second GOP- sponsored resolution as then considered. It would allow U.S. forces to continue operations in Libya indefinitely but also bar any funds from being used for a combat action, such as ongoing drone strikes. It had the blessing of House Speaker John Boehner.


This bill represents, I believe, a reasonable approach. By allowing our forces to continue playing a limited support role, it would not undermine our NATO partners. It would, however, prevent the president from carrying out any further hostilities without Congress's approval.

WELNA: But the measures split the difference approach failed to win over quite a few other Republicans, including Oklahoma's Tom Cole.

TOM COLE: Congress should reassert its constitutional authority, Mr. Speaker, by either authorizing the use of military force or ending it. This resolution avoids either course.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.