House ignores Obama's Libya request

House leaders are ignoring a request from President Obama for a congressional endorsement of the U.S. military mission in Libya.

Five days after Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders seeking a resolution of support, there has been no action in the House, and aides in both parties say there are no plans to bring legislation to the floor.

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The response in the lower chamber marks a striking contrast with the Senate, where a bipartisan group of foreign policy heavyweights have signed on to a resolution backing the Libya campaign. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt Fight over Biden agenda looms large over Virginia governor's race MORE (D-Nev.) has said he expects a vote next month on the measure, which is sponsored by Sens. John KerryJohn KerryPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Climate divides conservative Democrats in reconciliation push Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Walrus detectives: Scientists recruit public to spot mammal from space MORE (D-Mass.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight A pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Virginia race looms as dark cloud over Biden's agenda  MORE (R-Ariz.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden pays tribute to late Sen. Levin: 'Embodied the best of who we are' Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm dead at 85 MORE (D-Mich.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamA pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' Senators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products MORE (R-S.C.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Live coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia MORE (R-Ga.).

A companion measure has not been introduced in the House, and in the two months since Obama launched the operation, only one of the chamber’s 435 members, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), has signed onto a resolution supporting the mission. A spokeswoman for Rohrabacher said Wednesday that his measure was in “a holding pattern.”

House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorBottom line Virginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' MORE (R-Va.) said earlier this week that the Libya mission would be debated through amendments to the defense authorization bill currently on the floor, but the only amendments on Libya that lawmakers offered sought to criticize or to restrict the mission. With minimal debate, the House on a voice vote Wednesday adopted an amendment from conservative Rep. Scott GarrettErnest (Scott) Scott GarrettOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 Biz groups take victory lap on Ex-Im Bank Export-Import Bank back to full strength after Senate confirmations MORE (R-N.J.) that stated explicitly that “nothing in the [Defense] bill... shall be construed to authorize military operations in Libya.”

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithFacebook's the latest example that we must rewrite laws on corporate harm Overnight Defense & National Security — US attempts to mend ties with France Pentagon requires COVID-19 vaccines for civilian employees by Nov. 22 MORE (Wash.), said the White House has not asked him to sponsor a resolution and that it was up to the Republicans, who hold the majority, to take the lead.

“At this point, the majority has not indicated that they have a plan to bring anything up,” Smith said in an interview. “I think we should. I would be supportive of the Senate resolution. I think it’s important that we do that.

“Part of the reason that we haven’t introduced anything is that with something like this, we would like to have bipartisan support,” Smith said. “We would like something that would move through the process, and in that sense, the majority does control whether that happens.”

A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, had no comment, but he reiterated that the president “supports congressional action.”

In his letter last Friday, Obama said “congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment to this remarkable international effort.”

When Obama sent the letter, Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio), said Republican leaders had not seen a draft of the resolution and would discuss it with their members. The actual Senate resolution was not introduced until late Monday.

Two senior Democratic aides said the GOP was unlikely to touch the issue.

“It has been communicated to us that the Republican leadership has no interest in having this come to the floor,” one aide said.

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE’s office declined to respond.

House tensions with the administration over Libya stem from the outset of the mission, when Boehner, along with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, criticized the White House for insufficient consultation with Congress. Members in both parties accused the administration of acting outside of its war-powers authority, and those criticisms have grown louder in the last week with the passage of the 60-day mark on the mission. Under the War Powers Act of 1973, armed forces must be withdrawn after 60 days without authorization or a declaration of war from Congress.

With Moammar Gadhafi still in power and fears of a prolonged stalemate growing, there appears to be little appetite among House members for a full-throated endorsement of U.S. military involvement.

One Republican who initially was a strong backer of Obama’s intervention, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), said he would not vote for a resolution supporting the mission now because the 60 days of authority had expired.

Obama did not cite the War Powers Act or ask for explicit authorization in his letter. The president wrote that the resolution he wanted “would demonstrate a unity of purpose among the political branches on this important national security matter.”

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“It has always been my view,” Obama wrote, “that it is better to take military action, even in limited actions such as this, with congressional engagement, consultation and support.”

The president noted the operation had become “more limited” as NATO has assumed command, but he did not say how long U.S. involvement would last.

The Senate resolution says the chamber “supports the limited use of military force by the United States in Libya as part of the NATO mission to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011), as requested by the Transitional National Council, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.”

The resolution says the Senate agrees that “the goal of United States policy in Libya, as stated by the president, is to achieve the departure from power of Moammar Gadhafi and his family, including through the use of non-military means, so that a peaceful transition can begin to an inclusive government that ensures freedom, opportunity and justice for the people of Libya.”