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US lawmakers rebuke Obama over Libya
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 24, 2011

The war-weary US House of Representatives on Friday delivered a harsh, symbolic rebuke to President Barack Obama over the conflict in Libya but beat back efforts to cut funds for direct US air strikes.

The mixed result showed that lawmakers generally united in criticizing Obama's decision to do without congressional permission still lacked a coherent approach to force the president to change course.

By a crushing 295-123 margin that included 70 of Obama's Democratic allies, the House first rejected a resolution authorizing the use of military force as part of a NATO-led campaign against Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi's regime.

"We don't have enough wars going on? The war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, we need one more war?" thundered Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich, who has played a leading role in opposing the US role in Libya.

"This war is a distraction. Our flailing economy demands the full attention of Congress and the president," he said, as the House defied a last-ditch appeal from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a warning from NATO's chief.

It was the first time that the House rejected authorizing US military action since April 1999, when it repudiated then-president Bill Clinton's air campaign against Serbia in the conflict over Kosovo.

Lawmakers later voted 238-180 to beat back a Republican-led plan to cut funds for direct strikes on Libya but allow operations in support of NATO, a surprise outcome wrought by warnings that this amounted to a green light in all but name.

"Let's not enter a war through the back door when we have already decided not to enter it through the front," said Representative Tom McClintock, one of 89 Republicans to vote against the measure.

"You can't have it both ways," scolded Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, who voted in favor of Obama's approach both times.

"You can't say 'we would like to remove Kadhafi, we'd like to support the Libyan people, but we're going to offer up resolutions that are going to stop that from happening," he said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who made a rare in-person plea for support from Democrats in a closed-door session on Thursday, said the second vote showed bipartisan support for pursuing Obama's strategy.

"We have a plan that we are executing for achieving our mission in Libya. It is on track and we need to see it through. Time and history are on our side but only if we sustain the pressure," she told reporters.

But a Republican leadership aide warned the administration "should not be heartened by this, they should be worried" because the funding measure went down to defeat over concerns it effectively authorized Obama's approach.

And lawmakers presented a near-unified front of criticism against Obama's failure to get permission from Congress within a 60-day window set by the 1973 War Powers Act -- a law routinely ignored by US presidents -- and noted the US Constitution reserves the right to declare war to the legislature.

"It didn't have to come to this," said Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who charged Obama "failed to fulfill his obligations" to get the go-ahead from lawmakers and lay out the goal and likely duration and costs of the conflict.

"The president is becoming an absolute monarch, and we must put a stop to that right now if we don't want to become an empire instead of a republic," said Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler.

But Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who called the Kosovo vote "one of the darkest days" of his time in office, warned lawmakers risked straining Washington's ties overseas.

"The message will go to Moamer Kadhafi, the message will go to our NATO allies, the message will go to every nation of the world that America does not keep faith with its allies," he said.

The Republican compromise would have cut off direct combat like drone strikes and bombings but allowed operations in support of NATO, like aerial refueling, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, planning, or search and rescue.

The United States joined Britain and France in attacking Kadhafi's forces on March 19 in a UN-authorized mission to protect civilians as the regime attempted to crush an uprising sparked by the regional "Arab Spring."

The United States withdrew into a supporting role when NATO took command of the mission on March 31.

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House may cut some Libya funding
Washington (UPI) Jun 24, 2011 - The U.S. House of Representatives was expected Friday to vote on a resolution that would cut some funding for U.S. participation in the Libya conflict.

The measure is a direct response to President Barack Obama's failure to fully comply with the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which he says does not apply in the conflict he initially said would last days rather than weeks.

Under the resolution, passed by Congress over the veto of President Richard Nixon, a president must report to Congress within 48 hours of introducing U.S. forces into hostilities or into a situation in which hostilities could occur. By the 60-day mark, he must give a full report to Congress on the situation and obtain their approval. Absent such approval, he would then have 30 days in which to withdraw forces.

Although Obama reported the introduction of forces into a military campaign to topple the regime of President Moammar Gadhafi, he has not explicitly asked Congress for a supporting resolution, and Congress says his "reports" didn't adequately answer basic questions, such as showing how action in Libya is vital to U.S. national interests.

Last Sunday the clock ticked past the 90-day mark.

Last week, amid pressure from Congress, Obama sent a 32-page report to Capitol Hill that argued the War Powers Resolution did not apply since U.S. forces were in a support role and as such no engaged in "hostilities."

"The White House says there are no hostilities taking place, yet we've got drone attacks under way, we're spending $10 million a day and part of the mission is to drop bombs on Gadhafi's compound," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "That doesn't pass the straight-face test, in my view, that we're not in the midst of hostilities."

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., was quoted as saying in response that "spending a billion dollars and dropping bombs on people sounds like hostilities to me."

U.S. forces, together with those from NATO countries such as France and Britain, began bombing Libya on March 19, citing a U.N. Resolution authorizing military action to protect Libyan civilians in revolt against the regime from reprisal massacres.

Twelve days later the operation was officially transferred to NATO command, but the United States continued to provide aerial surveillance, reconnaissance and refueling. U.S. drones have also bombed targets within the country.

The United States has about 75 aircraft, including drones, involved in the operations and since the end of March has conducted about 2,600 aircraft sorties.

The mission to protect civilians turned to also helping rebel forces and, although not explicitly stated, to trying to kill Gadhafi, a dictator once involved in state-sponsored terrorism.

The cost to the Pentagon: between $40 million and $60 million a month. The administration has not requested congressional funding for the adventure -- as President Bill Clinton did in Kosovo -- so the Defense Department is using monies in its general fund.

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