ByÂ Stephen Dinan-The Washington Times
Crossing party lines to deliver a stunning rebuke to the commander in chief, the vast majority of theÂ House voted Friday for resolutions telling PresidentÂ Obama he has broken the constitutional chain of authority by committing U.S. troops to theÂ international military mission in Libya.
In two votes â€” on competing resolutions that amounted to legislative lectures ofÂ Mr. Obama â€”Â Congress escalated the brewing constitutional clash over whether he ignored the founding documentâ€™s grant of war powers by sending U.S. troops to aid in enforcing a no-fly zone and naval blockade ofÂ Libya.
The resolutions were non-binding, and only one of them passed, but taken together, roughly three-quarters of theÂ House voted to putÂ Mr. Obama on notice that he must explain himself or else face future consequences, possibly including having funds for the war cut off.
â€œHe has a chance to get this right. If he doesnâ€™t,Â Congress will exercise its constitutional authority and make it right,â€ saidÂ House SpeakerÂ John A. Boehner, the Ohio Republican who wrote the resolution that passed, 268-145, and sets a two-week deadline for the president to deliver the information theÂ House is seeking.
Minutes after approvingÂ Mr. Boehnerâ€™s measure, theÂ House defeated an even more strongly-worded resolution offered byÂ Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, that would have insisted the president begin a withdrawal of troops.
Most lawmakers said that was too rash at this point, and said they wanted to giveÂ Mr. Obama time to comply. Some also said immediate withdrawal would leave U.S. allies in the lurch.
The Kucinich resolution failed 148-265. In a telling signal, 87 Republicans voted forÂ Mr. Kucinichâ€™s resolution â€” more than the 61 Democrats that did.
Still, taken together, 324 members ofÂ Congress voted for one resolution or both resolutions, including 91 Democrats, or nearly half the caucus. The size of the votes signals overwhelming discontent withÂ Mr. Obamaâ€™s handling of the constitutional issues surrounding theÂ Libya fight.
Asked about the votes beforehand, theÂ White House said it believes it is following the law by alertingÂ Congress of its intentions regardingÂ Libya, and called the resolutions â€œunnecessary and unhelpful.â€
â€œWeâ€™ve continued to consult withÂ Congress all along,â€ saidÂ White Housespokesman Josh Earnest, pointing to briefingsÂ Mr. Obama and his top aides have given to members ofÂ Congress at various times before and during the deployment of troops.
But members ofÂ Congress said the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution require more than alerts about military action â€” they require congressional approval, which theÂ White House has not sought.
The Constitution gives the power to declare war toÂ Congress, but the power to manage the armed forces to the president. The War Powers Resolution, enacted in 1973, tries to bridge that gap by allowing the president to commit troops for up to 60 days, but requires him to seek congressional approval if he wants to extend the commitment beyond that period.
Mr. Obamaâ€™s only allies were top Democratic leaders, who said neither resolution was helpful as the president tries to aid U.S. alliesâ€™ efforts.
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