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House GOP Pulls Libya War Powers Resolution, Fearing It Would Pass

Constitution of the United States of America (page 4)

Constitution of the United States of America (page 4) by The U.S. National Archives


The House Republican leadership, after agreeing to allow a vote on a privileged War Powers resolution from Dennis Kucinich which would end US involvement in the war in Libya, has now yanked that vote from the calendar. Republicans are using a special process to override the privileged resolution, which must be considered without tabling, trying to put off the resolution to a later date. This will be decided in the House Rules Committee later, and given the way that runs, whatever Republican leaders want on the resolution will get advanced.

This clearly shows some fear in the GOP caucus that the motion would actually pass. So you have a Republican Party leadership in the House covering for the actions of a Democratic President by delaying a challenge to those actions.

GOP leaders were scrambling on Wednesday morning to come up with an alternative plan for considering the measure. These could include having the Armed Services or Foreign Affairs committees draft back-up proposals.

Citing “lots of unrest on both sides of the aisle,” a senior House GOP aide said Republican leaders are still working through their options.

Another senior Republican staffer said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “is concerned that if this were to come to the floor now, it would pass” and could adversely affect the NATO mission in Libya. NATO leaders on Tuesday authorized the contination of the military campaign against Qhadafi until September […]

In a statement, Kucinich said he was “disappointed that the President and leadership feel the need to buy even more time to shore up support for the War in Libya. It’s not surprising that some are now wondering if a preliminary vote count on my resolution came out in favor of defending the Constitution.”

Kucinich alludes to the correct point. By delaying this vote out of a fear that it may pass, the House GOP leadership is dispensing with their own Constitutional responsibilities for war powers. This was the party that ran on a commitment to restoring the Constitution. But on perhaps the most solemn duty that members of Congress have – determining when to initiate war – the leadership simply doesn’t want anything to do with it. That’s why I continue to believe that we can lay the expansion of executive authority in foreign policy and the trampling of the Constitution at the foot of Congress as much as any President. They simply have abdicated their responsibility.

Kucinich also said that the House wants to compel more information from the White House about the Libya mission before committing to a vote, and that Kucinich would be able to participate in that process of discovery.

Meanwhile, it seems that the situation in Libya could resolve before this Constitutional crisis over war powers works itself out. Today, the Libyan oil minister defected and showed up in Rome, dealing another blow to the Gadhafi regime. Oil minister Shokri Ghanem claims that there is a lot of pressure on Gadhafi at this point, and with NATO extending their mission to September (aided by British SAS troops on the ground) and both military and civilian leaders deserting the regime, Gadhafi could be forced out within months. So the campaign of delay from the House GOP could wind up working.

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David Dayen

David Dayen