House defeats move to stop funds for Libyan war

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 07, 2011 4:04 PM
House defeats move to stop funds for Libyan war

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A move to stop funding for President Barack Obama's military intervention in Libya was narrowly defeated in the House of Representatives on Thursday, underscoring Congress' unhappiness with the undeclared war.

Both political parties split over the measure, highlighting how tensions over U.S. involvement in Libya's civil war have crossed party lines and created unusual alliances.

Republicans and Democrats argued that President Obama violated the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution by failing to secure congressional authorization for U.S. military operations in the north African country.

The House did vote, 225-201, to bar any money being spent on military equipment or training for Libyan rebels. The measure would have to also get Senate approval and be signed by Obama before becoming law.

On a vote of 199-229, the House rejected the proposal to block defense funds in fiscal year 2012, which begins October 1, for U.S. military participation in the NATO-led mission against Muammar Gaddafi's forces in Libya.

The failed measure's sponsors were Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich and Republican Representative Justin Amash.

"We are at war," Amash argued before the vote. "The Constitution vests Congress with the exclusive power to declare war."

He said it was embarrassing to hear the Obama administration's "flimsy" arguments for being involved in Libya, but it would be even more embarrassing if Congress did nothing about its constitutional role being ignored. "We must stand up and say stop."


But Representative Norm Dicks, a Democrat, said that it would be wrong to "undermine" the president, as well as NATO allies involved in the war, by cutting off funds for it. He said the administration estimated the conflict would cost the United States a little over $1 billion by September 30.

Representative Bill Young, a Republican, said there were no funds in the fiscal 2012 defense spending bill for Libya anyway, because the administration had said that it was taking the money from the "base budget" that had already been appropriated in the current fiscal year.

The House has held several votes on the Libyan operation. Last month it defeated another move to curb the intervention, while also refusing to formally authorize the U.S. participation. The Senate has yet to take any votes on the war, although a resolution to authorize the U.S. role has passed a committee.

The House actions reflect growing war fatigue among lawmakers after a decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have cost more than $1 trillion and have helped fuel a $1.4 trillion budget deficit.

The United States and its NATO allies launched the U.N.-backed mission against Libya more than three months ago, aiming to prevent Gaddafi's forces from attacking civilians in regions opposed to his rule. The mission now appears to have the unstated goal of driving Gaddafi from power.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)