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.”
Rep. Howard Berman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted a turnabout.
“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.
White House officials disputed claims that Obama violated the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which requires the president to notify Congress of any U.S. military operation within days and to seek approval of any operation lasting longer than 60 days. The U.S. role in Libya passed the 60-day mark last month with no congressional approval, or any request from Obama for one.
Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said the administration has been in consultation with Congress and felt that both resolutions were unnecessary.
“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 Friday.
Scoffed Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga, during the debate: “What did he do, send a tweet to the chairman of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees?”