House to vote on U.S. role in Libya

June 3, 2011 at 4:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 3 (UPI) -- A congressional vote against U.S. support for NATO's military operations in Libya would send "an unhelpful message of disunity," a Pentagon spokesman said.

The House plans Friday to vote on two measures strongly critical of President Barack Obama's decision to maintain a U.S. role in NATO's Libya operations.

One measure, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, would direct Obama under the 1973 War Powers Resolution to end U.S. military involvement in Libya within 15 days.

The War Powers Resolution, which Congress passed over a veto by President Richard Nixon, requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days without congressional authorization or a declaration of war.

The 60-day deadline passed May 20, and the administration has not explained why it considers it lawful for the operation to continue.

"Since when does NATO trump the Constitution of the United States?" Kucinich said in a statement Thursday.

The other measure -- proposed as an alternative Thursday by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, out of concern Kucinich's measure would pass -- demands the administration provide detailed information within 14 days about the nature, cost and objectives of U.S. involvement in the NATO operation.

It demands an explanation for why the White House did not seek congressional approval for the involvement since, under the Constitution's War Powers Clause, Congress has exclusive power to declare war.

Obama sent a letter to Congress last month emphasizing Washington had turned over control of the operation to NATO and was primarily providing support to allies. The letter said the administration hoped lawmakers supported the operation, but did not indicate such authorization was legally necessary, The New York Times reported.

Boehner said Kucinich's measure "would undermine our troops in harm's way and undercut our allies who have stood by us in Afghanistan and other areas abroad."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said both resolutions "do not advance our efforts in the region and send the wrong message to our NATO partners."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said voting against U.S. support for the Libyan operations sends the wrong message.

"It sends an unhelpful message of disunity and uncertainty to our troops, our allies and, most importantly, the Gadhafi regime," he said in Singapore, where he was traveling with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

NATO, which has been conducting air strikes since March to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by Moammar Gadhafi's forces, shelled the Libyan capital Tripoli early Friday.

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