Bipartisan House coalition rebukes Obama on Libya

Continued use of U.S. troops is funded but not approved

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WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives sent President Barack Obama a strong bipartisan message Friday that it is frustrated and impatient with the U.S. military mission in Libya.

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Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler released the following statement after voting for H. Res. 2278, legislation that would cut off U.S. funding for further combat-related involvement in Libya:

“When the president committed the U.S. to this war in Libya back in March, I raised six questions that needed to be answered before I could support this action. Earlier this month, I supported a resolution requiring the president to finally provide those answers within 14 days.

“The response from the administration was simply not sufficient to answer these questions and justify our country’s involvement in yet another war. I do not find the President’s argument that we are not engaged in hostilities with Libya persuasive, and I am unconvinced it is in America’s best interest to further pursue this war. Therefore, I voted to bar funding for any further combat operations in Libya.”

The House voted 295-123 to deny congressional consent to continue the 3-month-old effort for another year, a clear rebuke to Obama.

But the House would not take the extra step of denying funding for the mission. A bid led by Rep. Thomas Rooney, R-Fla., to cut off money for all but search and rescue, intelligence, aerial refueling and noncombat operations lost on a 238-180 vote; 144 Republicans, including Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, and 36 Democrats supported the restrictions.

The votes mean that U.S. involvement in the NATO-led effort to prevent Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from crushing his people can continue. But the emotional, half-day debate illustrated the discontent that many lawmakers and their constituents feel about the mission, similar to their reservations about the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

White House press secretary Jay Carney voiced dismay. “We are disappointed by that vote. We think now is not the time to send the kind of mixed message that it sends when we are working with our allies to achieve the goals that we believe that are widely shared in Congress … now is not the time to let up.”

Democratic House leaders pressed for the legislation to authorize the mission for one more year, while barring most use of U.S. ground troops. In all, 70 Democrats and 225 Republicans voted against it. Democratic leaders expect a similar measure to pass the Senate early next month.

The breadth of the bipartisan coalition against the Libya mission was striking. Liberal war critic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, called the U.S. mission a “distraction,” while Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, argued, “We have no business being in Libya.”

Others railed about the cost — estimated by the White House at $716 million as of June 3.

“We’re broke,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark.

But it was clearly hard for a lot of other doubting Democrats to vote against Obama. They maintained that the mission was consistent with the U.S. role as part of an international coalition, and that Obama should be given one more year to complete it.

Efforts to limit the president, said Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., are little more than Republican efforts to embarrass Obama. “They want to continue to play games with U.S. national security,” Berman said.

Lawmakers from both parties are also frustrated because Obama hasn’t briefed Congress about his intentions in Libya. Lawmakers want the White House to comply with the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which no president has ever acknowledged as binding. The law requires a president to seek congressional approval within 60 days of the start of any conflict. If that approval is not granted, U.S. involvement is to end within 30 days.

“I do believe that President Obama could and should have done a better job of consulting with Congress at the outset of hostilities,” said House Minority Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “But I also believe that … the president’s consultation with Congress has been comprehensive and respectful of Congress’s role and responsibility.”

Many of his colleagues disagreed. “The question for me: Is it illegal or not? … The president continues to be in violation of the War Powers Resolution,” Griffin said. “What’s so hard about coming to the House and consulting with the Congress?