Chairman: Libya resolution would fail

An after-the-fact resolution authorizing President Obama to use military force in Libya would likely fail to gain congressional support, the House Armed Services Committee chairman said Monday.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told reporters he has no plans to shepherd a Libya resolution to the House floor.

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During a closed-door briefing with senior administration officials last Wednesday, "there was quite a bit of opposition" to the Libya campaign, McKeon said.

"I think it would be hard to get [a resolution] passed," he said, adding lawmakers should "take a breath and see what happens" in Libya before bringing an authorizing resolution to a debate and vote.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has said he is considering whether to craft a Libya authorization measure.

McKeon also told reporters he had secured a “promise” from GOP leadership that the House will take up a yearlong 2011 Pentagon spending bill as a separate item from the continuing resolution lawmakers are currently negotiating.

McKeon said he has been pressing House leaders to bring a full 2011 defense appropriations bill to the floor.

He has had talks with "the appropriators, the leadership and the Democrats" about acting on a defense spending measure separate from a government-wide continuing resolution, McKeon said.

"We are all in agreement" that funding the military at 2010 levels under a year-long CR would drive up Pentagon costs, as defense officials have warned, he said.

"I have been promised by leadership” that there will be a separate defense spending bill, McKeon said.

Meanwhile, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday is expected to unveil a 2012 federal budget. The Armed Services chairman said, based on his latest conversation with Ryan, that the Budget chairman is likely to propose a 2012 defense budget level "around where the president requested."

In February, Obama's 2012 budget plan included a $553 billion request for the Pentagon. On Monday, McKeon reiterated that he would like to see an even larger Defense Department budget — even as members of both parties say the Defense budget can be trimmed as part of deficit-reduction efforts.

McKeon also said he hopes members "are prepared to stay here ... and get the job done" on a 2011 budget. 

While the California Republican will not seek a resolution on Libya, he remained critical of how Obama dealt with Congress before launching the operation.

Two days before the campaign began — March 17 — Obama sat with House Speaker Rep. John Boehner at an annual congressional St. Patrick's Day luncheon.

"Nothing about Libya was said," McKeon told reporters.

He said the Obama administration's operational plans and goals are "kind of muddled."

As he has since the operation began, McKeon said the military goal of shielding Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi's forces and the political goal of Gadhafi relinquishing power are not aligned.

Asked if he supports a notion put forth by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to simply take out Gadhafi, McKeon told The Hill he believes that would be difficult to do without first putting military boots on the ground to locate the Libyan leader.

McKeon warned against arming Libyan opposition fighters, saying the U.S. has done that before in the region — but the same weapons "get used against us."

According to McKeon, even as the U.S. has attempted to take a backseat on offensive airstrike sorties, alliance officials have requested special American planes designed for air-to-ground strikes be sent back into the fight.

"If they ask for certain assets," McKeon said, "I think we'll still be providing them."