Freshman Republican: Obama’s timing on Libya ‘intentional’

The head of the House Republican freshman class is accusing President Obama of intentionally waiting until Congress adjourned to deploy U.S. military forces to Libya without its consent.

“Why did he wait until the day after we adjourned Congress [to launch military strikes]?” Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), the president of the 87-member GOP freshman class, said in a phone interview on Friday. “I believe that timing was intentional by the president.”

Congress adjourned for a scheduled recess on March 17, hours before the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution authorizing broad military action to enforce a cease-fire in Libya. Obama briefed congressional leaders the next day at the White House and ordered the first air strikes against forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on March 19.

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Scott, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, noted that Obama had called for Gadhafi to leave power in early March and questioned why he waited more than two weeks to act militarily. The Obama administration has said it acted only as part of an international coalition that responded to emergency conditions after Gadhafi said he would show “no mercy” to citizens opposing his government.

Scott said that while he understood the administration’s argument, “I still maintain his timing was intentional.” He said it was “a serious problem” that Obama waited for authorization from the U.N. but not the Congress.

Lawmakers from both parties have criticized Obama for not consulting Congress, but Scott’s public contention that the president purposefully waited until lawmakers left town appears to be unique.

“The president unilaterally injected us into a third country’s conflict,” Scott said.

He said Congress should have given authorization to use military force, but he added that he would wait to hear briefings from military leaders before deciding whether he would support an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, as some critics of the intervention have advocated.