Boehner says House could move to cut off funding for Libya

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said the Obama administration failed to answer all his questions about the U.S. mission in Libya and raised the possibility that the House would move to cut off funding for the operation.

In response to demands from the House, the administration released a 32-page report arguing that the Libya mission does not need congressional authorization because the U.S. military engagement there doesn’t amount to “hostilities.” 

Boehner said that explanation doesn't fly with him.

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“The White House says there are no hostilities taking place, yet we’ve got drone attacks under way, we’re spending $10 million a day, [and] part of the mission is to drop bombs on [Libyan dictator Moammar] Gadhafi's compound,” Boehner said. “That doesn’t pass the straight-face test, in my view, that we’re not in the midst of hostilities.”

The Speaker said the White House did not answer one of his questions — outlined in a letter he sent this week — as to whether the Office of Legal Counsel, an advisory entity within the Justice Department, agrees with its analysis of the 1973 War Powers Resolution. He said he wanted an answer to that query by Friday.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the president "absolutely respects" Congress's desire to be consulted on Libya, but Carney said that the report should suffice.

"I don't anticipate further elucidation of our legal reasoning because I think it was quite clear," Carney said.

Boehner said the House was considering its options to exert authority over the administration and that next week the chamber “may be prepared to move on those options.”

The “ultimate option,” Boehner said, is that “Congress has the power of the purse” and could cut off funding for the mission. “Certainly that is an option as well,” he said.


Actually forcing the president’s hand could be difficult, however, because any House-passed funding restriction would have to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate and be signed by Obama himself. And any Libya-related amendment would likely be attached to an appropriations bill that may not move through the Senate for months.

Carney said that the administration provided Congress with an "accurate and sound legal analysis." But noting the long history of debate over the resolution, Carney said the White House does not "expect everybody to agree." And with Boehner talking about Congress's authority to defund the mission, Carney again warned about Congress "sending mixed messages" that could harm a mission that is showing progress."

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a former Speaker, offered her support for Obama's interpretation of the War Powers Resolution at a Thursday press conference.

"The limited nature of this engagement allows the president to go forward," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. "I'm satisfied that the president has the authority he needs to go ahead.

"If we had boots on the ground … then that's a different story," Pelosi added. "I don't think they should stop the support that they're giving to NATO to stop the humanitarian disaster."

The White House report met fierce opposition Wednesday from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who spearheaded a bipartisan lawsuit contending Obama violated both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution in Libya. "The White House claim that the war is not war is not a legal argument," Kucinich said in a statement. "It is a political argument."

Boehner called on the president to explain anew to the American people “why we are there, what the mission is and what our goals are, and how do we exit this.”

-- This story was updated at 1:45 p.m.

-- Mike Lillis  and Sam Youngman contributed to this story.