House to vote on authorizing or ending Libya mission

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to introduce two Libya measures that present House lawmakers with a stark choice: Vote to authorize the U.S. combat mission or vote to end it.

House Republicans will discuss the proposals at a conference meeting Wednesday morning, and votes could occur on both by the end of the week.

One resolution would mirror a version proposed Tuesday by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) that authorizes a limited U.S. military mission for one year, but prohibits the use of ground troops except to defend American officials in danger. The other resolution, Boehner said, would remove U.S. forces from Libya under the War Powers Resolution “except for forces engaged in non-hostile actions such as search & rescue, aerial re-fueling, operational planning, intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance, and non-combat missions.”

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The proposals have the potential to settle - or intensify - what has become a rancorous debate in the House over the Libya mission and whether Obama has flouted the War Powers Resolution by not seeking congressional authorization. Boehner has ramped up his criticism of the president’s handling of the operation and said in a statement Tuesday that the White House’s justification of the mission’s legality “is not credible.”

“We have no desire to damage the NATO alliance, which has been a strong force for peace and stability in Europe and around the world,” Boehner said in a statement. “We know that soldiers, sailors, and airmen from our allies have fought by our side for decades, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we honor their service. Still, the White House must not ignore its obligations to the American people and the laws of this country.”

He added: “If the commander-in-chief believes that intervention in Libya is important for our national security, he has a responsibility to make a case for it – clearly and publicly – and seek authorization. In the three months since military action in Libya began, none of this has occurred. The American people deserve to have their voice heard in this debate, and Congress has a responsibility to hold the White House accountable.”

Whether either resolution will have the support to pass the House is unclear. While the House has come close to blocking funds for the mission in recent weeks, a measure authorizing the operation could draw support from Republicans whose concerns have focused on the lack of congressional input.

The House is also likely to consider separate proposals to restrict funding for the Libya campaign as part of a Defense appropriations bill this week.

The White House has not formally requested authorization from Congress, arguing that the mission does not require one because the limited U.S. role in the NATO-led effort does not constitute the legal definition of “hostilities” in the War Powers Resolution. Press secretary Jay Carney has separately warned against House action to restrict funding, saying it would send “a bad message” to Libyan dictator Moammar Ghadafi and to U.S. allies.