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 resolution gives Obama 14 more days to explain his strategy in Libya and to convince Congress the attacks are justified by U.S. interests.
The House rejected, by a vote of 148 to 265, a more drastic measure from one of the fixtures of antiwar sentiment in the House, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio). That resolution would have demanded that Obama pull out of the Libyan operation within 15 days.
With those votes, the House stepped back from a confrontation over how America goes to war — at least for the moment.
On Friday, 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.
“This resolution puts the president on notice. He has a chance to get this right,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the author of the resolution that passed. “If he doesn’t . . . we will make it right.”
Obama ordered U.S. forces to join the international operation against Gaddafi on March 19. The operation is now led by NATO, but it relies heavily on American forces for logistics, intelligence and some air sorties.
The campaign has done something rare on Capitol Hill. It has angered legislators so much that they considered sticking their nose in the middle of an ongoing military campaign.
“This is not the king’s army,” Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.) said during the House’s debate Friday. “This is an unconstitutional and illegal war. And I think it sets a very dangerous precedent.”
Many legislators said they were concerned that Obama had missed a deadline set by the 1973 War Powers Resolution. That law requires presidents to obtain congressional authorization for a foreign military operation within 60 days — or withdraw.
Last month, the 60-day deadline came and went. Obama did neither.
“It is the view of this administration that we’ve acted in accordance with the War Powers Act,” because members of Congress have been regularly consulted about the operation, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday in a briefing to reporters aboard Air Force One. He called both resolutions “unnecessary and unhelpful.”
During Friday’s debate, legislators from both parties said Boehner’s resolution was a good alternative to Kucinich’s, since it would not pull U.S. forces out of an ongoing NATO operation. Those who voted for Boehner’s bill included 45 Democrats and 223 Republicans.
“Do you poke your friend in the eye because you’re mad? No,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), meaning European allies such as Britain and France. He said he hoped Obama would use the next two weeks to make a compelling case — citing the dangers, for example, of chemical weapons and antiaircraft missiles disappearing from Libyan stockpiles.
“When he makes his case, I think the American people will be with him,” Rogers said. “But he has to make the case.”
Staff writer Perry Bacon Jr., traveling with Obama, contributed to this report.