House to have two votes on Libya

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2011 7:48 PM
House to have two votes on Libya

By Susan Cornwell and David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives prepared to vote on Friday on dueling approaches to U.S. involvement in Libya, one directing President Barack Obama to pull U.S. forces out of NATO operations and a second that demands more information about U.S. strategy.

The resolutions are a response from lawmakers in both parties who are unhappy the United States is now in a third conflict after Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics charge that Obama did not consult adequately with Congress before joining in the multinational operation that began conducting air strikes in March to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

House Speaker John Boehner set up the unusual menu of options after the stronger of the two, a resolution by Democrat Dennis Kucinich that would insist on withdrawal from operations in Libya within 15 days, was yanked from the voting agenda on Wednesday amid signs it might pass.

At a closed-door meeting on Thursday, Boehner urged his majority Republicans to support the less harsh alternative he offered, giving lawmakers a way to send a message to Obama without "pulling the rug" from under U.S. allies conducting operations in Libya, Republicans leaving the meeting said.

The Pentagon warned earlier on Thursday that House passage of the Kucinich resolution demanding U.S. withdrawal from the operations would send an "unhelpful message of disunity" to allies and foes alike.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that "once military forces are committed, such actions by Congress can have significant consequences," particularly on relations with NATO members.

NATO is leading the intervention in Libya under the authority of a U.N. Security Council with a U.S. contribution but there are no U.S. troops on the ground there.

With Democrats also divided, it was still unclear how the House votes on the two measures expected on Friday would turn out.

Some Republicans said they would not rule out voting for both resolutions. Neither would have authority unless also passed by the Senate, which is thought unlikely.

'NO ONE' WANTED TO SAVE FACE FOR OBAMA

"I guarantee you no one in that room is interested in saving face for the White House," Representative Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters after leaving the meeting of Republicans.

He predicted more Republicans would support Boehner's approach on Friday because "I don't think we should be sending that message to the world: that because we are upset with the president, we will take it out on our allies and others."

Boehner's resolution establishes that Congress has not authorized U.S. involvement in Libya, and directs the Obama administration to provide information on its strategy to Congress within two weeks, Boehner's office said in a statement.

That information should include the total projected cost, and the anticipated scope and duration of U.S. military involvement in Libya, the resolution says. It also reaffirms a vote of the House last week forbidding U.S. "boots on the ground" in Libya.

Kucinich argues that Obama had overreached his powers under the U.S. Constitution by keeping U.S. forces involved in Libya operations too long without Congress' approval.

"Since when does NATO trump the Constitution of the United States?" Kucinich asked in a statement on Thursday.

His measure would invoke the 1973 War Powers Resolution to direct Obama to stop the U.S. participation in the war. Kucinich says Obama violated the part that prohibits U.S. armed forces from being involved in military actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization.

(Editing by Jackie Frank)