This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) that would have prohibited funds provided by a Defense Department funding bill from being used for U.S. military operations in Libya. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department programs.
Rigell urged support for his amendment: “…An egregious ongoing breach of the separation of powers is taking place at this very hour; specifically, the usurpation of a power given only to Congress, that found in article I, section 8 of the Constitution: only Congress can declare war. Known initially as Operation Odyssey Dawn and now as Operation Unified Protector, military intervention easily rising to the definition of war is being carried out in Libya. It is being carried out with the bravery, exceptional professionalism and commitment to victory that define our fellow Americans who serve in our Armed Forces. And before I address the mission itself, I first applaud their willingness to sacrifice so much for their fellow Americans….There has been no declaration of war. There has been no statutory authority issued. There has been no evidence that an attack on American forces was imminent or had occurred.”
Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) opposed Rigell’s amendment: “…The NATO-led mission to defeat Qadhafi and to protect the people of Libya was undertaken in concert with a broad coalition of nations, including the Arab League, and it followed resolutions adopted in the United Nations Security Council, authorizing `all necessary measures.' This amendment would end our involvement unilaterally. I believe this could materially harm our relationship with NATO allies from whom we will undoubtedly require support in the future and who have been our partners since 1949. We should let the mission with our NATO allies continue so we can defeat Qadhafi and protect the Libyan people.”
[On March 19, 2011, the U.S. joined an international coalition (that included France, the United Kingdom, and Canada) to intervene in Libya’s civil war. This coalition aided rebels who had staged an uprising against the country’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, who had ruled Libya since 1969 and whose regime was notorious for human rights violations. On April 4, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO—an international coalition of 28 member countries) assumed operational control of the military mission in Libya.]
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 176-249. Voting “yea” were 130 Republicans and 46 Democrats. 141 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 108 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the net effect of this vote was to allow funds provided by a Defense Department funding bill to continue to be used for U.S. military operations in Libya.