Senators unveil tough resolution on Libya

AP News
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Posted: Jun 08, 2011 5:15 PM
Senators unveil tough resolution on Libya

A resolution before the Senate pressures President Barack Obama to seek congressional consent for continued U.S. military involvement in Libya and requires the administration to provide a detailed justification for the decision to go to war.

Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., introduced the resolution on Wednesday, expressing the same frustration with the commander in chief as House members who last Friday voted to rebuke Obama for failing to get authorization from Congress when he ordered air strikes beginning March 19 against Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

The Constitution says Congress has the power to declare war, and the 1973 War Powers Resolution requires the president to obtain congressional authorization within 60 days of the start of military operations, a deadline that passed last month.

"The issue for us ... is whether a president, any president, can unilaterally begin and continue a military campaign for reasons that he alone has defined as meeting the demanding standards of a vital national security interest worthy of risking American lives and expending billions of dollars of our taxpayers' money," Webb said in a Senate speech. "What was the standard in this case?"

Corker said it has been more than 80 days since the first U.S. military action "but neither the Congress nor the American people have any clearer view of the administration's stated mission or end game for our military involvement in Libya."

While the rebels have made gains in Libya, Gadhafi has maintained his grip on power, saying he will fight to the death.

The Senate resolution mirrors the House measure in arguing that Obama failed to provide a "compelling rationale" for U.S. action in Libya. It also prohibits U.S. ground forces in Libya except to rescue a U.S. service member and requires the administration to answer more than 20 questions on the scope of the mission, its costs and the impact on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan within a two-week period.

Going beyond the House resolution, the measure expresses the sense of the Senate that Obama should request congressional authorization for continued U.S. military action. NATO commands the operation, but the United States still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work.

Corker said he expects the Senate to debate the resolution next week, but its prospects remain unclear as several senators favor a stronger endorsement of the U.S. mission. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and John McCain, R-Ariz., proposed such a measure last month.

The White House maintains that it has been in compliance with the War Powers Act and has called the resolutions unhelpful and unnecessary.

Initially the White House brushed off the nonbinding House measure, saying it had provided answers at various briefings. But on Wednesday, it said it will respond to detailed questions on the U.S. mission in Libya within a two-week deadline.

The House resolution was sponsored by House Speaker John Boehner.

"We will answer the questions in that resolution within the time frame that he specifies," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.

The deadline for providing answers on the operation's objective is June 17.