Ninety-one days after President Obama notified Congress he was using U.S. military force to attack Libya, Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Tuesday introduced a resolution authorizing the intervention. But don’t expect the Senate to pass it any time soon.
In interviews Tuesday with more than a dozen senators, The Cable discovered that it will take weeks, not days, for the resolution to come up for a vote. The resolution’s language is only the starting point for a Senate debate that will feature resolutions and amendments from multiple senators, each of whom has his or her own ideas on how to express the Senate’s position on the fighting in Libya.
Even the three senators who are leading the resolution drive can’t agree on whether Obama’s adventure in Libya is legal in the first place.
“I do not think our limited involvement rises to the level of hostilities defined by the War Powers Resolution,” Kerry said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.
“I’m dubious of that interpretation,” Levin said in a brief interview, addressing the administration’s claim that the U.S. intervention in Libya did not amount to a war. “But that’s not the point. The point is that regardless of what one’s position is on the interpretation of the word hostilities, nonetheless the question is whether or not you support or oppose continuing that mission.”
McCain doesn’t believe the War Powers Resolution is constitutionally valid, but still he thinks that U.S. actions in Libya amount to war. “When you’re sending out Predators and killing people and doing other things, that’s conflict,” McCain said.
Kerry said in an interview that his bill could be marked up as early as June 28, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets. He said that when it will reach the Senate floor will depend on the judgment of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).
If Reid doesn’t start the debate immediately — and doing so would require him to sideline a lot of other pressing business — the bill would be pushed back until after the July 4 recess. The earliest it could then come up for debate would be July 12.
And that’s just the beginning of the challenges that the resolution will face. Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the ranking Republican on Kerry’s committee, told The Cable on Tuesday that Kerry’s resolution won’t be the only game in town.
“We’re going to have lots of resolutions. That will not be the only resolution offered,” he said in a brief interview in the basement of the Capitol, pointing out that the Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing next Tuesday “as to why there is any conceivable justification for the war at all.”
Ever get the feeling that the Obama administration abuses the use of anonymity when offering up “senior administration officials” to speak about policy on “background?”
The Obama team routinely gives briefings and interviews on the condition that the briefer not be identified by name, but only with a vague reference to him or her working for the administration. These days, “background” briefings are the rule, not the exception, and the demand for anonymity is sometimes so unnecessary that simply reading the transcript can demonstrate the futility of the exercise.
Such was the case Tuesday with a State Department background briefing with a “senior administration official” regarding U.S. policy in the Middle East.
The “senior administration official” described his trip around the Middle East with National Security Council Senior Director Dennis Ross and his meetings with officials and the special envoy throughout the region.
The “senior administration official” must have realized that in several State Department briefings, spokesmen have talked about how Ross and acting Special Envoy David Hale were traveling in the region. In one briefing, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland actually listed the specific meetings that Hale was conducting, which magically match the meetings of the “senior administration official” on the call.
Several readers wrote to The Cable to remark that the State Department was comically failing to protect the identity of its “senior administration official,” despite the fact no one really thought there was any risk in identifying him by name in the first place.