House rejects approval of Libyan operations, but does not vote to defund

Chris Moody

The House of Representatives on Friday rejected a resolution endorsing limited military operations in Libya, but fell short of cutting off funds for U.S. military action in the region.

The measures were largely symbolic--but showed a growing rift between Congress and the White House on presidential war powers, even within President Obama's own party. Seventy-two Democrats joined the Republican majority to kill the resolution approving of the operations. During the second vote, 89 Republicans voted to continue the war funding.

This is the first time in 12 years that Congress has not voted to support a national military operation. The last instance was in 1999, when the House voted 213-213 on a resolution that would have approved of Bill Clinton's military action in Kosovo.

The first vote poses a dilemma for congressional Democrats, some of whom believe the White House failed to consult Congress before initiating force against Libya. Within the caucus, the debate raged: Support the president, or take a stand for the chamber and send a clear message to Obama that demands him to consult Congress first.

In preparation for today's set of resolutions, the Obama administration scrambled to keep the level of embarrassment to a minimum. The White House sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to meet with Democratic House members Thursday night, and White House officials spent the evening contacting Democratic members of Congress to sway their votes, Politico reported.

Some Democrats who supported the resolution to endorse the military operations said they considered the Republican effort to restrict funds a cheap political stunt. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the GOP of "toying with national security."

"The majority is bringing up this resolution in order to embarrass the White House," Berman said on the House floor before the first vote. "They know it will fail. They want to continue to play games with U.S. national security. Let's be honest about what's happening here."

The operation in Libya has tepid support among the public: Just 39 percent of respondents to a recent Gallup poll said they support the nation's involvement in Libya while 46 percent disprove.

(Photo: Hassan Ammar/AP)