This afternoon, the House was getting ready to vote on a resolution demanding that President Obama pull US troops out of Libya when the Republican House leadership had the bill pulled from the docket. The apparent reason for this action was that it looked like the bill was getting too much support and might actually pass, while GOP leaders just wanted it to come close to passing to put pressure on the administration.
The reasoning behind this action seems to be pretty convoluted and perhaps somewhat despicable. They apparently want President Obama to take the blame for the war in Libya while not actually going so far as to actually stand clearly against his actions and perhaps even end the war. They had assumed that the resolution would only be backed by Democrats, but to their surprise many Republicans who don’t like the idea of an unconstitutional war, were going to vote for the resolution.
This is a perfect example of the effects of the change in the Republican majority coming out of last election. There is now a core group of Republicans who aren’t willing to play games and who are serious about issues like making war without even following the guidelines of the War Powers Act, much less the Constitution.
It probably didn’t help that this bill was authored by arch-leftist Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), which raises the question of what might happen if a similar bill demanding an immediate withdrawal from Libya were to come to the floor sponsored by one of the prominent Republicans who also oppose the war in Libya like Walter Jones (R-NC) or Ron Paul (R-TX). Would the House leadership take the widespread concern about the war more seriously then?
While some Republicans may like the idea of US intervention in Libya there are four facts which they really cannot ignore:
• The war is unconstitutional. Despite arguments that it is a deployment of US forces as part of a NATO operation, it is a long-term troop deployment which has never been approved by Congress and that is clearly a violation of Article I, Section 8 which reserves the power to declare war specifically to Congress.
• The Libya operation is a clear violation of the War Powers Act, which sets specific limitations on Presidential war authority, expanding on the Constitutional guidelines. One of those requirements is that the President receive approval from Congress for any action lasting more than 60 days, a deadline which passed last week and which the President has ignored.
• We can’t afford this war. As a nation we’re on the brink of bankruptcy and looking at taking on absolutely unsustainable additional debt. We already have troops deployed in far too many places overseas, including in Iraq and Afghanistan and our military budget has ballooned utterly out of control. Continuing operations in Libya is just not something we can afford.
• We have no idea what we’re doing. It is not at all clear that we are fighting a war which can be won, which does anything to advance our national interests, or even that we’re supporting people who aren’t likely to be as much of a thorn in our side as Gaddafi has been for decades. Wars without a clear purpose and a predictable outcome are terrible policy.
President Obama ought to be held fully responsible for this war in Libya. Republicans in Congress who don’t want to pursue the issue are betraying their oath to the Constitution and also making a serious political mistake. The GOP has no stake at all in this war. It doesn’t make any sense, weakens our national defense and our finances, and should be opposed by all Republicans including party leaders in Congress.
If the leadership will not let the Kucinich resolution come up for a vote then I hope very much that one of the dynamic new leaders elected last year will take the initiative to put forward a similar bill immediately. Perhaps such a bill would be taken more seriously if sponsored by Justin Amash (R-MI) or Allen West (R-FL) or Chris Gibson (R-NY). This is a chance for a freshman Representative to make a mark for himself on an issue where the party leadership has clearly gone off the tracks.