Boehner Moves to Quell Bipartisan Uprising Over US Role in Libya

Seeking to stave off a brewing bipartisan revolt over the US role in NATO operations over Libya, House Speaker John Boehner Thursday unveiled a resolution that would give the Obama administration 14 days to justify its involvement in that country's conflict.

Boehner's resolution is an attempt to short-circuit more stringent measures introduced by liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Republican Reps. Michael Turner of Ohio and Tom Rooney of Florida. Kucinich's calls for withdrawal of American forces in 15 days. Turner's expresses strong disapproval of the US role in Libya. Rooney's accuses President Barack Obama of violating the 1973 War Powers Resolution and would require US withdrawal unless Congress authorizes the action by June 19.

Lawmakers leaving a closed-door House GOP meeting where Boehner (R-Ohio) outlined his measure said the plan is to have votes on both the Boehner and Kucinich resolutions as early as Friday. Votes haven't been scheduled on the Turner and Rooney resolutions.

“The Kucinich measure would have long-term consequences that are unacceptable, including a precipitous withdrawal from our role in supporting our NATO allies in Libya, which could have serious consequences for our broader security,” Boehner said. “It would undermine our troops in harm's way and undercut our allies who have stood by us in Afghanistan and other areas abroad.”

Boehner echoed the sentiments of Pentagon officials.

“Secretary (Robert) Gates believes that for the United States, once committed to a NATO operation, to unilaterally abandon that mission would have enormous and dangerous long-term consequences,” said Geoff Morrell, a deputy assistant defense secretary.

By presenting his own resolution, Boehner hopes to thread a thin needle within his own party by chastising Obama and compelling him to report to Congress while not committing the commander-in-chief to a specific timeline to remove US troops from NATO's Libya operation.

“The president has failed to provide Congress with a compelling rationale based upon national security interests for current United States military activities in Libya,” Boehner's resolution reads.

It goes on to say that within 14 days of the resolution's passage Obama must send the House “a report describing in detail United States security interests and objectives, and the activities of United States Armed Forces, in Libya since March 19, 2011 … “

The measure says nothing about ending the US role in NATO's Libya mission, but it does warn that Congress has the constitutional right to “withhold funding for any unauthorized use of the United States Armed Forces, including for unauthorized activities in Libya.”

“There's a lot of concern given the budget deficit, given our debt. I think every penny that the Congress spends is getting a lot more scrutiny,” Boehner told reporters earlier in the day. “In addition to that … members are a bit weary on the amount of money we've spent in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and that we're spending in Libya. Many are wondering what's our vital national security interest there.”

Boehner unveiled his resolution a day after his leadership team pulled Kucinich's resolution from consideration on the House floor for fear that it might pass. Kucinich's measure called for the US to cease its NATO role over Libya within 15 days. His bid came on the heels of a vote last week to expedite the US exit from Afghanistan, a proposal that lost 215-204, with 26 Republicans voting for it.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) the author of that measure, claimed a moral victory because a similar bid in 2010 received only 162 yes votes, nine of them by Republicans.

Shortly after Kucinich's proposal was yanked, Turner introduced a resolution that would express disapproval of the US involvement in Libya. Turner's measure had 64 co-sponsors from both parties that spanned ideology from liberal to tea party.

On Thursday, Rooney presented his resolution, which would declare Obama in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, and demand that US forces end their Libyan role unless Congress authorizes military action by June 19.

The War Powers Resolution requires the president to notify Congress of any US military operation within days and to seek its approval of any operation lasting longer than 60 days. The US role in Libya passed the 60-day mark last month with no congressional approval, nor any request from Obama for one.

“Usually when you undertake a military action you know who you're against but we also usually know who we're for,” Turner said. “We don't know the (Libyan) rebels, we don't know what they're for, we don't know what Libya will look like post-(Moammar) Gadhafi. The president hasn't made his case.”

But freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) a US Air Force Reserve pilot, said he's against the US dropping out of the Libya mission.

“I think Libya is in our interest,” he said. “We can't engage everywhere, but I think it's in our interest there.”

He added: “I do think the president does have the responsibility to come here and make his case.”

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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