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Vote delayed on resolution to pull US troops from Libya

GOP leaders have postponed a scheduled vote on a measure to withdraw U.S. forces from action in Libya and called a special conference meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue.

The last-minute move led Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the sponsor of the legislation, to charge that the House leadership might have done so out of fear it would have passed.

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According to several sources, support was growing in the GOP ranks, to the point the measure might pass.

But House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner: 'Thank God' I wasn't in the middle of election Ryan delays committee assignments until 2017 Lobbying World MORE (R-Ohio) said Wednesday the GOP leadership opted not to vote on the legislation because lawmakers needed more time to consider that action.

BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner: 'Thank God' I wasn't in the middle of election Ryan delays committee assignments until 2017 Lobbying World MORE said the leadership “decided that the House wasn’t ready to decide the question, and I think before we proceed, we want to do so, in what we think is the best interest of our country and allow a process for the American people’s will to be heard on the House floor.”

Kucinich’s legislation, brought up through an expedited process under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, has forced House Republicans to confront a military operation that they have largely pushed to the backburner. While the House debated proposals to restrict the mission last week, GOP leaders have ignored a request by President Obama to act on a resolution supporting the 

NATO-led mission.

Kucinich could force a vote on his bill within two weeks, and GOP leaders faced the possibility that the measure could pass unexpectedly and embarrass the Obama administration on the world stage.

“We don’t want necessarily to call for withdrawal, but a lot of our members are saying, ‘Why are we in Libya and not in Syria?’ ” a House Republican leadership aide said.

The aide said some members who have concerns about the president’s Libya policy are also worried about the precedent that would be set by passage of a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal. Other members dispute the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution, which grants Congress the power to force a drawdown.

One possibility is for Republicans to draft a separate resolution voicing concern about the mission or demanding more consultation from Obama. That measure could be voted on alongside the Kucinich resolution, giving lawmakers the opportunity to weigh in formally on the Libya operation without explicitly demanding an end to it.

Kucinich slammed both the Obama administration and GOP leaders Wednesday for scrapping the vote on his proposal.

“The administration wants to postpone and avoid this deliberation; however, Congress cannot maintain its position as a coequal branch of government if it willingly forfeits the decisionmaking on matters of war and peace,” Kucinich said. “This is why it is important that this issue be brought forward for deliberation and a vote.”

He’s accused the White House of violating both the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution by maintaining military operations in Libya without a stamp of approval from Congress. That law requires the White House to secure congressional authorization for military operations within 60 days, or withdraw the forces within the next month.

The “compounded illegalities,” Kucinich charged Wednesday, are raising eyebrows on both sides of the aisle.

“I don’t see this as a partisan issue,” he said. “If we do not challenge the president’s usurpation of the war powers, we’re setting a precedent that’s very dangerous. … This is not academic.”

The Ohio liberal said there’s “no question” his proposal would have passed had it reached the floor Wednesday.

Kucinich also pushed back hard against the notion that his proposal would undermine the relationship between the U.S. and its NATO allies — a position argued by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday.

“We take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, not NATO,” Kucinich said. “Who’s NATO?”

The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Howard Berman (Calif.) said he has not been included in the GOP’s deliberations on a Libya resolution. He would oppose the Kucinich measure, he said.

“I don’t think it would affect [the administration’s] behavior. It wouldn’t stop them from doing what they’re doing, but I think it would be an unfortunate message,” Berman said.

He said, however, that the administration had limited time before congressional support drops even further.

“We need to achieve our goal quickly,” Berman said.

Obama has not asked Congress for an explicit authorization of the military mission under the War Powers Resolution, but shortly after the 60-day mark, he endorsed a Senate resolution supporting the mission. House leaders have so far ignored that request. More than 70 days have passed since the operations began.

The issue has prompted a backlash from an odd group of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, who say Obama lacks the authority to maintain the operations — which are costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars — without Congress’s consent.

The Kucinich proposal would require the president to remove the forces unless he secures Congress’s endorsement. The measure was originally slated for a vote Wednesday evening.

“The House leadership has communicated to me via email that the vote on Libya will be postponed ‘in an effort to compel more information and consultation’ from the administration,” Kucinich said. “I have been asked to provide input for the information which the House will seek from the administration.”

After the announcement that the vote was postponed, the administration said it would hold a classified briefing for lawmakers on the situation in Libya. Kucinich criticized that plan, saying there should be a public debate on the issue. 

Bob Cusack and Molly K. Hooper contributed to this story.

— This story was originally posted at 12:58 p.m. and updated at 2:44 p.m. and at 8:11 p.m.