This was a vote on passage of a resolution sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) that called on President Obama to withdraw U.S. troops from Libya within 15 days of the resolution’s enactment.
Kucinich’s resolution was one of two measures relating to U.S. military involvement in Libya. Both resolutions were non-binding—meaning they did not have the force of law. Kucinich’s resolution, however, explicitly stated that Obama had violated the War Powers Resolution, which requires the president to obtain congressional authorization for a commitment of U.S troops to an armed conflict lasting more than 60 days. Thus, Kucinich’s resolution sought to assert Congress’ authority under the War Powers Resolution and direct President Obama to end U.S. involvement in Libya.
On March 19, 2011, the U.S. joined an international coalition (that included France, the United Kingdom, Spain, 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.
Unlike Kucinich’s legislation, a separate resolution sponsored by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), did not call for the withdrawal of U.S troops from Libya. Rather, Boehner’s measure criticized the president for his failure to obtain congressional authorization for military action and called on Obama to submit a report justifying and clarifying the U.S. military’s mission in Libya.
Kucinich urged support for his resolution: “There are those who may hesitate to support my resolution because of the supposed negative impact it will have on the NATO mission and on our image in the eyes of our NATO allies. In the weeks leading up to the [Libyan] war, the administration had time to consult with the Arab League, the United Nations, and the African Union, but apparently had no time to come to this Congress for approval. If our image in the eyes of NATO is a reason to stay in Libya, the administration should not have committed the U.S. to a war of choice without consulting with Congress for an action that was so far outside that which is allowed by the War Powers Resolution. Far more damaging is a Congress that ends up being more concerned with our image in the eyes of NATO than our fulfillment of our constitutional responsibilities and the continued usurpation of the war power by the executive. Our loyalty to NATO and to our President, regardless of party affiliation, does not trump our loyalty to the United States Constitution.”
Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), also supported Kucinich’s resolution: “…The reason I support the Kucinich resolution is it sends a clear message to the White House they cannot do this again. They cannot unilaterally go into Syria or the Ivory Coast or anyplace else without talking to the Congress that represents the people all across this country. The President should not have done this.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) opposed Kucinich’s resolution: “While I share the frustration of my colleagues, I am deeply concerned that an abrupt withdrawal of support for the NATO mission would have repercussions that extend far beyond the borders of Libya. Adoption of this resolution would send a signal to Qadhafi that if he can just hang on for 15 days more, the alliance will crumble and he can resume his destructive behavior and his destabilizing activities. In Egypt, the stability necessary to prevent extremist elements from seizing control could be compromised if the conflict in Libya remains unresolved. Furthermore… providing Qadhafi free rein by forcing the U.S. to rapidly withdraw from the NATO operation would pose an even more virulent threat to such other allies in the region as Israel. An emboldened Qadhafi regime would be in a position to provide both destabilizing types and amounts of conventional weapons, as well as unconventional capabilities through new and existing smuggling routes to violent extremists in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza, extremists who seek the destruction of Israel.”
Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) also opposed Kucinich’s measure: “I continue to believe the mission in Libya is relevant and necessary…and I believe it's achieving success. Qadhafi's forces have been driven out of eastern Libya and out of Misrata in the west. High-level defections are on the increase. Demonstrations are once again breaking out in Tripoli, suggesting a weakening of government control. Progress is slower than we would like, but it is steady. Efforts to force a withdrawal of forces would reverse this process and jeopardize the lives of hundreds of thousands of Libyans now benefiting from the NATO operation….Think about what a removal in 15 days, as required by this resolution, would mean. We would be giving Qadhafi a free hand to maintain control in Libya and continue his campaign against civilians. We would be thumbing our nose at our NATO partners whose support on the ground has been and continues to be so crucial in Afghanistan.”
The House rejected Kucinich’s resolution by a vote of 148-265. Voting “yea” were 61 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 87 Republicans. 144 Republicans and 121 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected a resolution that called on President Obama to withdraw U.S. troops from Libya within 15 days of the resolution’s enactment.