A Republican congressman, joined by dozens more Republican co-sponsors, has introduced a resolution expressing “disapproval” of U.S. military operations in Libya — another sign of growing discontent with that campaign on Capitol Hill.
The resolution from Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) would allow the House to state simply that it “does not approve” of the Libya operation.
“The president, on May 20, asked Congress for support for his military engagement in Libya. Our resolution is a response: The president has not made the case,” Turner said in a telephone interview Thursday morning.
The bill is less drastic than one from Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), which had gained surprising bipartisan support before the House’s GOP leaders abruptly shelved it Wednesday. The Kucinich bill, if it passed, would have demanded that President Obama remove U.S. forces from Libya within 15 days.
The Turner bill does not make that demand explicitly. Instead, it cites the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which requires that presidents obtain congressional authorization for foreign military campaigns within 60 days of notifying Congress. In this case, that deadline passed last month.
Turner said that the resolution was designed to compel Obama to come to Congress and make the case for the operation — describing what he knows about the Libyan opposition, and what is supposed to happen if strongman Moammar Gaddafi steps down.
“He’s going to have to provide us everything that he’s yet to provide us with,” Turner said.
The Turner bill, if it passed, could set up an unlikely political confrontation between a Democratic president, pushing for more military attacks, and a Republican-led House, pushing to stop them. Such a fight could embarrass Obama, and pull attention away from the still-unsettled fight over the debt ceiling.
But such a fight would be a sharp turnabout for both congressional Republicans, and Capitol Hill in general. Over nearly a decade of war, congresses — especially Republican ones — have tended to stay out of the way of presidents and their wars.
But the Turner bill’s list of 61 co-sponsors indicates that this is a confrontation many Republicans want. The list includes veteran conservatives such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a Tea Party favorite. It also includes a number of the conservative freshmen who have driven the GOP’s agenda this year: Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) and others.
The list of co-sponsors also includes Kucinich himself.
It is still unclear whether the Turner bill could pass, or if it will gain the support of GOP leaders in the House. They are scheduled to meet with all 200-plus House Republicans Thursday afternoon to hash out a strategy on Libya.
U.S. forces still provide logistical and intelligence support to the NATO-led operation against Gaddafi, and American planes and drones still fly a large fraction of the operation’s air sorties. While Obama has encouraged Congress to pass a resolution supporting the campaign, White House officials have said they believe the operation is still legal without one.