Libya vote splits foes of Obama’s policy

The House voted against a bill today that would’ve limited how the U.S. can spend money on the NATO action against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, handing President Obama a surprise win apparently because his opponents disagreed on whether the bill was tough enough.

The vote on HR 2278 was 180 for, 238 against. As the Washington Post put it, the bill “would not have ended the U.S. mission in Libya, but it would have cut off funding for American forces that are not engaged in support missions within the NATO-led coalition, like aerial refueling, reconnaissance, and planning. That would have meant an end to strikes on Libyan targets by unmanned U.S. drones.”

From the Bay Area, only Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, supported the bill.

honda.jpgRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose – who just yesterday joined Lee, Woolsey and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., in issuing a statement calling upon Congress and the President to immediately halt all action in Libya – voted against today’s bill.

“It provides funding and legal authority for everything we’re currently doing. It was back-door authorization. Honda is against the invasion entirely,” spokesman Michael Shank said. “HR 2278 legitimized continued involvement. The exemptions were problematic and in conflict with his position on Libya.”

Congress also voted today on H.Res.68, which would’ve provided Congressional authorization of U.S. action in Libya; that one failed 123-295.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, opposed both bills, saying neither was serious or deserving of his support.

“One resolution offered far too broad of an authorization for U.S. military action, and the other prescribed far too limited a role.

“I believe President Obama was correct to have American forces join with NATO in its effort to stop a humanitarian crisis in Libya, and I believe NATO continues to have a strong rationale for preventing a substantial loss of life in Libya, as Qadafi and his forces have made clear their intent to indiscriminately kill opponents of his dictatorship.

“But I also I believe his actions, beginning in March, triggered the War Powers Act and required him to seek an authorization from Congress. At that time I said that I believed Congress most likely would have granted him the authority to participate in the NATO operation. But he never asked for authorization. And last week he made a spurious argument that U.S. actions in Libya did not trigger the War Powers Act. He has few supporters for this claim.

“It is incumbent on the President to make a clear and convincing case to Congress about the U.S. mission in Libya and to ask for a narrow and carefully drawn resolution authorizing a limited action. He has not done that and a proper resolution has not been brought before Congress for our careful consideration and debate. As a result, I voted against the sloppily drafted resolution to provide a one-year authorization for U.S. military actions in Libya.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, issued a statement explaining his votes for authorization and against the funding cut:

John Garamendi“President Obama stopped genocide, and in his rush to prevent mass slaughter, his consultation with Congress was limited. Today I voted to grant President Obama the one-year authority he requested to continue our limited operation in Libya.

“To my friends on the left and the right opposed to our action in Libya, I say this: in terms of the human toll, financial burden, and impact on our relations with allies and adversaries throughout the world, Libya pales in comparison to the war in Afghanistan. In Libya, the United States is engaged in a humanitarian mission that received broad international support – with the Arab League supporting for the first time ever an intervention in an Arab country. This conflict has yet to cost us a single American life, and god willing it will stay that way.

“Meanwhile, the conflict in Afghanistan continues to cost America more than $2 billion a week, and this spring was the deadliest spring for American troops since we entered that country nearly a decade ago. Let’s focus on the big picture: targeting Al Qaeda wherever they take root, keeping our troops safe, and where and when we can, preventing genocide and assisting our fellow world citizens as they aspire to form governments that are more representative and more just. I have my disagreements with President Obama on the war in Afghanistan, but I stand with him in the prevention of the massacre of a Libyan people yearning to breathe free.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.