House preserves Libya funding but refuses to authorize mission
By Pete Kasperowicz and Molly Hooper - 06/24/11 01:59 PM ET
The House on Friday afternoon rejected legislation that would have prohibited the funding of military operations in Libya with only a few exceptions.
The 180-238 vote against the bill came after a debate in which both parties were split on how best to handle U.S. involvement in Libya, even as they seemed to agree that President Obama should have involved Congress in that decision at a much earlier stage.
As expected, most Republicans supported the bill: 144 voted in favor of it, but 89 voted against. These vote totals changed at the last minute several times as members altered their votes.
Democrats were less divided: 36 voted for it, and 149 voted against.
Earlier in the day, in a rebuke to President Obama, the House rejected a resolution that would have authorized continued U.S. military operations in Libya for one year. Congress and the White House have been disputing the extent of the president's power to act in Libya without congressional approval. Although the House did not authorize the effort Friday, it also did not go so far as to defund it.
The defeated resolution, offered by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), would have restricted the role that U.S. troops would play in the continuing NATO military campaign to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi from power in that country.
Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) broke with his fellow House GOP leaders to oppose the measure; he watched the tally board along the back wall of the House until the 15 minute vote was moments from closing before casting his no vote.
House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made a point of noting that the votes on the Libya matter were not whipped by leadership - it was up to individuals to "vote their conscience," as an aide explained.
Earlier in the day, it was all but expected that the House - clearly upset with the President for not having made a case to Congress before involving U.S. forces in Libya - would support Rooney's measure.
36 House Democrats, including outspoken liberal Reps. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) and John Conyers (Mich.) joined 144 House Republicans in support of the measure. But 89 conservative Republicans joined 149 Democrats to ultimately defeat the measure.
The bill would have allowed the U.S. to continue its involvement in activities such as search and rescue, intelligence, aerial refueling and operational planning. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called it a "reasonable approach" that would let the U.S. continue to help its NATO allies.
But Democrats argued that these limited activities would prevent the U.S. from helping much with the humanitarian mission, and several suggested that the U.S. needs more authority to assist than what was offered in the bill.
Some Republicans agreed with this broad sentiment. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) added that even if passed, it would not have any immediate effect as it would also have to be approved by the Senate.
Another Republican, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), called on members repeatedly to reject this bill because it would continue to authorize some activities in Libya.