WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders will bring a bill to the floor as soon as Friday to defund U.S. military operations in Libya, a much stronger course of action than the non-binding resolution originally set to come up.
GOP leaders opted to deliver a sharper rebuke to President Barack Obama on Libya after getting an earful from their Members for being too weak on the issue in a Wednesday meeting. During the Conference meeting, leaders pitched their two Libya resolutions to the group to get feedback — one called for pulling out of Libya operations altogether, the other authorizes a limited role — and Republicans overwhelmingly said the former wouldn’t cut it.
Freshman Republicans as well as senior-level Members raised questions about “the power of the resolution,” said one GOP lawmaker who requested anonymity.
“There was a desire to be more forcefully in front of this issue than was anticipated” by Republican leaders, the lawmaker said. “People were trying to make sure our leadership understood there are people wanting to be asserting ourselves legislatively.”
A GOP leadership aide said the bill would allow the U.S. to continue supporting the NATO-led campaign in Libya in some ways, such as aerial refueling and surveillance activities, but would prevent funds from being used for missile strikes by U.S. drones and piloted aircraft. The bill takes aim at the administration’s controversial stance that military actions in Libya do not constitute the kind of “hostilities” defined by the War Power Act, which means Congressional approval is not needed.
Another Republican lawmaker who also requested anonymity said most in the Conference believe the War Powers Act is unconstitutional, and therefore they don’t think a resolution will be forceful enough to legally challenge Obama on the issue.
“The only way to address this is to withdraw funding,” said the lawmaker, adding that nobody “is particularly happy with the way this has played out.”
The House Rules Committee is expected to meet as soon as Thursday to take up the newly drafted bill, along with the resolution that authorizes Obama to continue with limited operations in Libya for a year. The resolution mirrors a proposal offered this week by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.).
Republicans signaled they are ready to finally exercise their legislative authority on Libya.
“I would vote to not fund any further military action in Libya,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.).
Freshman Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) agreed that it is time to find “a graceful yet forceful way of getting out of this,” even if some of our international partners in the effort don’t agree.
“We have to have maybe a somewhat uncomfortable conversation with our NATO allies that we have gotten into this position backwards and that’s not how we do that,” Huizenga said.