WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives seemed on track to approve a resolution Friday aimed at limiting the US role in strikes on Libya, amid deep anger at President Barack Obama's handling of the conflict.
Republican US House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that lawmakers would vote on that measure as well as a competing one that would authorize US forces to take part in the NATO-led pounding of strongman Moamer Kadhafi's military.
"This is primarily a fight between the Congress and the president over his unwillingness to consult with us before making this decision," said Boehner, who told reporters the two measures "will be on the floor tomorrow."
The measure would aim to cut off all funding for US military operations except for tasks in support of NATO allies, like aerial refueling, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, planning, or search and rescue.
"The fact is, we are there, we are engaged. I believe that NATO is an important organization. And as we're there, I don't want to do anything that would undermine NATO or to send a signal to our allies around the world that we are not going to be engaged," said Boehner.
Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed anger at Obama for not seeking a formal congressional green light for the conflict from the Congress, to which the US Constitution reserves the right to declare war.
Some have also accused him of violating the 1973 War Powers Act designed to curtail presidential war-making -- though presidents of both parties have cited their constitutional title of commander in chief of the military as they routinely ignored that law.
In a last-ditch bid to enlist support for the conflict, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met behind closed doors with House Democrats to urge them not to tie the administration's hands.
"I, myself, believe the president has the latitude to do what he is doing as long as there are no boots on the ground," Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters.
But "I also always say that consultation strengthens the resolve of our country, and the more consultation the better," she added.
Senior congressional aides predicted that the resolution authorizing operations that Obama began in March would fail, while the one curtailing Washington's role in the conflict would pass.
Boehner's comments came as the administration courted congressional support for funding military operations that began as an effort to protect Libyan civilians and expanded to reflect US policy that Kadhafi should quit power.
"The bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Kadhafi?s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them?" Clinton asked Wednesday.
"For the Obama administration, the answer to that question is very easy," she said at a press conference in Jamaica.
Boehner said he understood the humanitarian mission but assailed the "flawed" policy of declaring that Kadhafi had to step down, which left lawmakers and the US public asking: "How long are we going to be there?"
Many of Obama's own Democrats have called for an end to the conflict amid polls showing the US public does not believe the United States should be involved.
The administration has argued that the War Powers Act does not apply in Libya because the US military is playing a supporting role, with no ground troops and little risk of casualties.
The move came as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was due next week to debate and vote on a resolution authorizing the US role in Libya.
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