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Congress Confused on Libya

6:51 PM, Jun 24, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Two resolutions on the Libya intervention failed in the House of Representatives today. One sought to authorize military action, while the other would have limited funding for the operation. Only eight Republicans voted for the authorization measure, and 89 Republicans joined with most of the Democratic caucus to defeat the defunding resolution.

US Capitol Building at night Jan 2006

One of the eight Republicans who voted for authorization, New York’s Peter King, said he is “disappointed” in his party’s vote on that resolution. “As Republicans, we should never be talking about the War Powers Act,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a very isolationist type vote.”

“I wonder how many people in the party even realize how out of step they are with the party’s history,” King continued.

The resolution, introduced by Democrat Alcee Hastings, failed 123-295. Along with Peter King, Representatives Charlie Dent, David Dreier, Steve King, Adam Kinzinger, Thad McCotter, David Rivera, and Mike Rogers all voted for authorization. Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Calling himself a “national security conservative,” Steve King of Iowa said there is an isolationist streak within the Republican House caucus that influenced the authorization vote. “Some of it's there in the libertarian wing of the party, led by Ron Paul,” said Steve King, a member in good standing with the Tea Party and the conservative movement.

The Iowa congressman said he was “scarred” by his experience in the Pelosi-led House, when he said the Democrats brought 44 “politically-motivated” resolutions against the war in Iraq. “These were designed to undermine the commander in chief,” Steve King told me. “We should take our disagreements with the president domestically.”

Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, who voted against both authorizing and defunding the operation, explained his vote in a statement. “Today’s vote indicates that the President has failed to adequately explain our mission in Libya either to Congress or to the American people,” Ryan said. “While I do not support cutting off funding for the operations that are already underway, today’s vote of no-confidence should send a strong message to the President: He owes the American people and Congress a clear strategy.

Several anti-war Republicans also voted against the resolution that would defund the intervention, including Ron Paul of Texas. As the Washington Examiner reported, Paul said on the House floor today that the resolution did not go far enough in ending the action in Libya, saying it “masquerades as a limitation of funds for the president's war on Libya but is in fact an authorization for that very war."

Additionally, as many as 70 Democrats who voted against defunding did so for similar reasons, indicating the failure to defund may not have been the implicit endorsement of Libya the White House wishes. Writes Josh Rogin:

Of the 149 Democrats who stuck with the president, up to 70 of them are totally opposed to the Libya intervention and want to see it completely defunded as soon as possible. They voted "no" on the Toomey's [sic; Tom Rooney’s] bill because they thought it was too weak, did not cut off funds, and implicitly authorized the intervention.

Nevertheless, 144 Republicans voted to defund the action, including members of the leadership, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy. In an email to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring wrote: "America’s foreign policy must be strong and assertive, but it must also be judicious. Eric believes the biggest threat we face is the spread of radical Islam on the global stage, and the United States must keep its focus there and not take our eye off the ball. Furthermore, the President has failed to adequately define our mission, role, and commitment in Libya, which is the Commander-in-Chief’s obligation when committing our forces."

In a statement released this afternoon, Senator John McCain praised the House for defeating the defunding resolution. “I look forward now to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in both the Senate and the House, to pass an authorization for the limited use of force in Libya that fulfills our responsibilities and sends a message to Muammar Qaddafi, the liberation forces in Libya, and our NATO allies that the United States will achieve our stated objective of forcing Qaddafi to leave power,” McCain said.

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