GOP fights off Dem arguments that Boehner's Libya resolution is symbolism only

Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) opened debate on the rule for the two proposals by saying Kucinich's is a much tougher alternative, in large part because Boehner's resolution is an "H.Res." bill — essentially, a sense of the House that does not have to go to the Senate.

By contrast, he said, Kucinich's resolution is an "H.Con.Res." that would go to the Senate and put more pressure on the Obama administration to comply with the wishes of Congress.

"So if you're into symbolism, if you're into therapy … vote for the Boehner resolution," McGovern said. "If you are interested in action, if you are interested in actually living up to our responsibilities as lawmakers in the United States Congress, then I would suggest that you vote for the resolution that Mr. Kucinich has drafted.

"This is a way for some of my friends on the other side of the aisle to kind of cover their backsides, to be able to say to their constituents, 'We did something tough on Libya,' " he added.

House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) objected to that characterization, and argued that both resolutions are based on the understanding in the War Powers Resolution that the executive branch must obtain congressional authorization when committing troops for a period of more than 60 days.

But Dreier said the War Powers Resolution is itself a resolution that does not have the power of law. Therefore, Dreier said, neither resolution being considered today has the power to compel the Obama administration to do anything.

"We're talking about resolutions here; we're not talking about measures that have the power of law," Dreier said.

McGovern said he is "stunned" by that characterization, and said the War Powers Resolution does have the power of law. "I'm sorry that the gentleman has such a low opinion of the War Powers Resolution," he said. "I think it carries more weight than he does."

The House is expected to approve Boehner's resolution, but might turn down Kucinich's. Dreier said Friday morning that many see Kucinich's proposal as less responsible, since it would be difficult to organize a complete withdrawal from Libya in just 15 days.