Libya debate leads to unlikely alliances in the House

Posted June 03, 2011, at 6:34 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers across the political spectrum in the House of Representatives took turns blasting President Barack Obama on Friday for not seeking congressional approval before deploying U. S. military assets to the NATO operation in Libya, but they resoundingly rejected a resolution demanding a U.S. withdrawal from the operation.

On a 148-265 vote, lawmakers turned back a measure by liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, that called for a U.S. withdrawal from the NATO-led mission within 15 days.

Instead, they voted 268-145 to approve a weaker resolution by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that gives Obama 14 days to justify his Libya decision to the House.

The votes capped a sometimes emotional debate that saw party lines evaporate and odd alliances emerge. Anti-war Democratic liberals joined normally hawkish conservative Republicans in urging a withdrawal from Libya.

Forty-five Democrats joined 223 Republicans in supporting Boehner’s measure, while 10 Republicans voted against it. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., voted present. Eighteen lawmakers didn’t vote.

Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., a retired Army officer, tweeted that “I voted w/Rep. Kucinich today for Pres to w/draw troops from Libya in 15 days. I voted against Speaker Boehner — his resolution isn’t strong.”

Kucinich’s resolution received 87 Republican votes, more than the 61 Democrats who backed it. Nineteen House members didn’t vote on the measure.

“Our founders envisioned a nation ruled by laws, not by an all-powerful executive,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who voted for the Kucinich resolution. “As a result, the Constitution specifically grants Congress the power to go to war. By failing to seek congressional approval for combat operations in Libya, President Obama is ignoring the Constitution and the will of Congress.”

Rep. Howard Berman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted an unusual turnabout with the Libya war debate.

“President Bush once accused the Democratic Party of becoming the party of ‘Cut and Run,’ “ Berman said. “Well, it seems the running shoe is now on the other foot. It is a Democratic president that is taking on a brutal tyrant and it is the Republican Party that refuses to back him.”

Though Boehner’s resolution repeatedly scolded Obama for failing to explain his Libya rationale to Congress, his measure actually helped the White House by short-circuiting Kucinich’s.

Kucinich’s bid apparently gained enough steam earlier in the week that House GOP leaders pulled it from consideration on the House floor Wednesday fearing that war-weary lawmakers might pass it.

“The resolution offered by my colleague from Ohio, Mr. Kucinich, conveys the concerns of the American people, but it also mandates a precipitous withdrawal from our role in supporting our NATO allies in Libya,” Boehner said on the House floor. “In my view, the gentleman’s resolution goes too far. We may have differences on how we got here, but we cannot turn our backs on our troops and our NATO partners who have stuck by us over the last year.”

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