DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans and Democrats scolded President Barack Obama on Friday for dispatching U.S. forces against Libya without getting congressional approval as the House moved toward approval of a resolution demanding a rationale for the mission.
Nearly three months after Obama launched air strikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, the House held the first significant debate on the conflict as it considered two resolutions — one by anti-war Rep. Dennis Kucinich to end U.S. involvement in the NATO-led operation and another by Speaker John Boehner insisting on information on the scope of the operation and its costs within 14 days.
The GOP leadership hastily pulled together the Boehner resolution amid concerns in both parties that the Kucinich measure was gaining ground. The House is likely to approve the Boehner measure that chastises Obama for failing to provide Congress with a “compelling rationale” for the Libya operation.
The Senate had no plans to consider the measure, which would allow the U.S. to continue to remain engaged in the mission and would have no impact on the logistical and intelligence support the Americans have been providing.
Boehner said too many questions remained unanswered.
“Today’s debate on Libya is the first step and clearly there’s information that we want from the administration that we asked for in this resolution and it’s information that we expect to get,” the Ohio Republican told reporters. “But there isn’t any question in my mind that Congress is going to take further action in the weeks to come.”
The White House pushed back against both resolutions, with spokesman Josh Earnest calling them “unnecessary and unhelpful.”
Earnest insisted that the administration has been consulting with Congress since before Obama ordered air strikes.
“It is the view of this administration that we’ve acted in accordance with the war powers act because of these regular consultations,” Earnest said aboard Air Force One en route to Toledo, Ohio.
But lawmakers faulted the commander in chief for ignoring both Congress’ constitutional authority to declare war and the 1973 War Powers Resolution that requires congressional authorization within 60 days of military action. That deadline expired last month.
“Shall the president, like the King of England, be a dictator on foreign policy?” asked Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. “The authors of the Constitution said we don’t trust kings.”
Republicans and Democrats have been frustrated with Obama’s treatment of Congress, particularly the level of consultation and details on the scope of the Libyan mission and its costs.
“What did he do, send a tweet to the chairman of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees?” Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., asked mockingly.
Obama ordered air strikes in March to back Libyan rebels battling Gadhafi’s regime after limited consultation with Congress. More recently, the United States has operated in a support role as the standoff continues between Gadhafi’s forces and the rebels.
The president has argued that he acted to prevent a massacre in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, and he had the backing of several lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
Initially, the military operation was largely constituted of U.S., British and French naval and air attacks, with the United States taking the lead. NATO took charge at the end of March and U.S. forces now play a support role that includes aerial refueling of NATO warplanes and intelligence, and surveillance and reconnaissance work. The U.S. also flies unmanned drones over Libya.
Obama said when he ordered U.S. forces to support the mission that there would be no American ground troops. Although no U.S. military forces are present, The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that the CIA has paramilitary officers operating alongside rebel forces in the North African nation.