Boehner introduces new resolution seeking Libya mission clarity

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is introducing his own resolution to rebuke President Obama’s handling of the Libya intervention in a bid to stave off House passage of a bill mandating a U.S. withdrawal.

Boehner’s proposal, which he pitched to a restive House GOP conference Thursday, would forbid the deployment of U.S. ground troops and demand that Obama provide information on 21 separate items related to the mission within 14 days, including the mission’s goals and objectives, its costs and the president’s justification for not seeking congressional authorization.

ADVERTISEMENT
The resolution also says the president “has failed to provide Congress with a compelling rationale based upon United States national security interests for current United States military activities regarding Libya.”

The last-minute move sets up a pair of votes on Friday that will pit Boehner’s bill against a competing proposal from anti-war Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) that would require the U.S. to withdraw its forces from Libya within 15 days.

“The American people and members on both sides of the aisle are concerned about questions that have gone unanswered regarding our mission in Libya,” Boehner said in a statement. “The president has failed to explain to the nation how this military action is consistent with U.S. national security goals and policy.”

The Libya issue rapidly bubbled back to the surface after Kucinich invoked the 1973 War Powers Resolution to fast-track his legislation to the House floor. Though they could have waited another week, Republican leaders scheduled the Kucinich measure for a vote on Wednesday, only to scrap it when they learned it might have enough support to pass.

To bring Boehner’s resolution to the floor, GOP leaders must waive their rule requiring that legislation be made public for three days before a vote can take place.

The seven-page Boehner resolution aims to draw support from Kucinich’s proposal while satisfying the desire of Republicans to register their disapproval of Obama and force the White House to answer Congress’s many questions about the mission.

“The resolution we will vote on tomorrow,” Boehner said, “will enable members to clearly express the will of our constituents — in a responsible way that reflects our commitments to our allies and our troops.”

The Speaker said Kucinich’s legislation “would have long-term consequences that are unacceptable, including a precipitous withdrawal from our role supporting our NATO allies in Libya — which could have serious consequences for our broader national security. It would undermine our troops in harm’s way and undercut our allies who have stood by us in Afghanistan and other areas abroad.”

In an hour-long conference meeting Thursday, Boehner made a pointed case for his bill over Kucinich’s.

“He made a real strong point in there that he believes that we shouldn’t try to make political points on foreign policy,” said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “And as much as we’re unhappy with how the president did this, we don’t want to use that unhappiness to cause problems with our standing in the world.”

Boehner appeared to win over some Republicans who were most eager for Congress to weigh in on U.S. actions in Libya with a message of disapproval. Lawmakers emerging from the meeting predicted the Speaker’s bill would have enough votes to pass, although several said the fate of Kucinich’s proposal remained unclear.

Kucinich told The Hill he intended to vote for Boehner’s resolution and said it was “not in conflict” with his own. 

“I’m not going to get into strategy,” the Ohio liberal said when asked about Boehner’s attempt to siphon support off of his own bill. “My resolution is based on the Constitution and trying to reclaim Congress’s role as the decision-maker in whether or not we send our sons and daughters into harm’s way.”

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), who had authored a separate bill declaring that Obama had violated the War Powers Resolution, said he would support Boehner’s bill but was undecided on Kucinich’s.

Boehner’s resolution does not say the president violated the 1973 law requiring congressional authorization of military operations within 60 days, but it does note the administration did not seek authorization, nor has Congress granted it.

In addition to Rooney, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) also introduced a measure expressing congressional disapproval of the Libya mission. Turner said he had 63 co-sponsors when he unveiled the proposal Thursday morning.

ADVERTISEMENT
Boehner’s move came as the White House and the Pentagon pushed back against congressional efforts to restrict or condemn the Libya operation.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president believes the NATO mission in Libya is succeeding, and that he is opposed to ending that mission right now.

“We believe that the policy is working,” Carney said. “We believe the goal the president has is shared by the majority of the members of Congress.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, released a statement warning that “for the United States, once committed to a NATO operation, to unilaterally abandon that mission would have enormous and dangerous long-term consequences.”

On Thursday, the House defeated by a mere five votes an amendment from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), attached to an appropriations bill, that aimed to restrict funds for the Libya mission. 

The vote was 213-208; Sherman said he believed the measure would have passed if not for member concerns that it was not germane to the underlying bill, which provides funds for the Department of Homeland Security.

Molly K. Hooper and Sam Youngman contributed to this story.


This post was originally posted at 2:20 p.m. and has been updated.