Congress Sours on War in Libya

With representatives strongly opposed to a U.S. ground presence, GOP leaders block Rep. Dennis Kucinich's attempt to end the war altogether. How long can they keep it up?

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Rep. Dennis Kucinich is trying force a vote to end the war in Libya. GOP leaders in the House of Representatives blocked that vote on Wednesday. Why? Speaker John Boehner "is concerned that if this were to come to the floor now, it would pass," Politico reports. Isn't that something? President Obama unlawfully launched a war without seeking congressional approval. Members of Congress abdicated their constitutional role for months on end. And now that the people's representatives want to have their say? Republican and Democratic party leaders are thwarting them.

They may not succeed for long.

Last week, the House "overwhelmingly backed an amendment to the defense bill barring any taxpayer dollars for U.S. ground forces or private security contractors in Libya," The Washington Post reports. "The vote was 416-5." And Politico cites anonymous sources claiming "lots of unrest on both sides of the aisle" over the Libya situation. As well there should be.

The Democrats who backed Obama did so partly because they didn't want any more wars of choice. GOP voters, already weary of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are in no mood for a debt-financed campaign that doesn't improve our national security. I've argued before that the Republicans should run to Obama's left on national security. At minimum, some GOP candidates for the 2012 nomination are going to use Obama's Libya misadventure as a cudgel against him.

That will be deserved, for as Daniel Larison explains:

If the resolution passed, it probably would adversely affect the mission in Libya. Of course, it is supposed to affect the mission adversely. The purpose of the resolution is to withdraw U.S. forces from that mission. That probably would make it very difficult for the non-U.S. allies to continue attacking Libya, and NATO might be forced to settle for a negotiated settlement.

Had the administration gone to Congress and sought authorization before the war began, the U.S. and our allies wouldn't be in this predicament. The administration seems to have counted on such abject surrender from Congress that something like this would never come up, and for the last two months they have been right, but it is just remotely possible that the administration's contempt for the nation's representatives will come back to haunt it. The House majority leadership may succeed in stopping this resolution from passing, but at least they will have been forced to take a public stand on the war in the process.
If the resolution passes, it'll be partly because House Republicans, who rely on the Tea Party for their majority, cannot defend supporting a president of the opposite party through a costly, constitutionally dubious war. It isn't so long ago that parts of the GOP rebelled against President Clinton's war-making. Is the post-9/11 dominance of hawks in the GOP finally coming to an end?

Image credit: Reuters

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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