Just Foreign Policy Newsnaiman@justforeignpolicy.org
1) The House of Representatives voted Friday to harshly rebuke President Obama for continuing to maintain a US role in NATO operations in Libya without the express consent of Congress, the New York Times reports. The resolution, which passed 268 to 145, was offered by Speaker Boehner to siphon off swelling Republican support for a measure sponsored by Representative Kucinich which calls for a withdrawal of the US military from the air and naval operations in and around Libya.
The resolution criticizing the president passed with the support of 45 Democrats and all but 10 Republicans. The measure from Kucinich failed by 148 to 265, with 87 Republicans voting in favor.
As a legislative matter, the Boehner resolution has no practical effect, the Times says. But as a political matter, the resolution was an unusually blunt confrontation of a president during a continuing military conflict.
The War Powers Resolution says that presidents must terminate hostilities after 60 days if they have not been authorized by Congress; that deadline passed on May 20 without an explanation to Congress from the administration detailing why it thinks it was lawful for the operation to continue.
This lack of explanation, following Obama's failure to obtain Congressional authorization for the engagement at the outset, angered both the anti-war factions of his own party, and conservative Republicans seeking to rein in executive power and federal spending alike. An intense floor debate ensued Friday over the nature of the conflict in Libya and the role of Congress in authorizing military campaigns. Members on both sides complained of war fatigue in their districts, and the reluctance of constituents to support the opening of yet another conflict.
2) The House on Friday rebuked President Obama for failing "to provide Congress with a compelling rationale" for the military campaign in Libya, but stopped short of demanding he withdraw U.S. forces from the fight, the Washington Post reports. With those votes, the House stepped back from a confrontation over how America goes to war, but perhaps only temporarily, the Post says. Legislators from both parties said they might try more stringent measures if Obama does not make his case in the next two weeks. Their options include cutting funding for the operation, or voting formally to "disapprove" of the war.
3) Washington Rep. Norm Dicks, the top House Democrat on defense and appropriations is warning that President Obama can't ignore growing "war fatigue" in Congress and must consider steps to accelerate a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Politico reports. "I think the American people would overwhelmingly like to see this brought to a conclusion sooner than 2014," Dicks said.
Dicks's comments are important because of his long record of support for Obama on Afghanistan and special standing in Congress as the ranking Democrat on both the House Appropriations Committee and its defense panel overseeing the Pentagon budget, Politico says.
It was important last week when Dicks quietly sided with anti-war forces in backing an amendment demanding that Obama come up with plans this summer to accelerate the withdrawal and pursue a negotiated settlement with "all interested parties" in Afghanistan, including the Taliban. Democrats appeared to have found some unity in their stance on the war, with only eight voting in opposition. Dicks's shift was a big part of that picture, Politico says. "I think there are a lot of people changing their minds, and if this thing had had a little more time, it may have well passed," Dicks said.
At the White House on Thursday, the vote on Afghanistan was raised by Democrats with the president. Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern made the point that 97 percent of Democrats had backed his language.