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House disapproves of Libyan action, but leaves funding intact

July 07, 2011|By Kim Geiger | Washington Bureau
  • New volunteers for the rebel army fighting to overthrow Moammar Kadafi take part in training in Geminis, Libya.
New volunteers for the rebel army fighting to overthrow Moammar Kadafi… (Esam Al-Fetori / Reuters )

Reporting from Washington —

The House of Representatives sent a mixed message on U.S. involvement in Libya on Thursday, voting to block direct American support for rebel forces but refusing to cut off U.S. funding to the NATO mission.

It was the second instance in recent weeks in which the Republican-dominated House voiced disapproval of President Obama's policies in Libya but stopped short of voting to withdraw all funds. House lawmakers refused last month to authorize U.S. military involvement in the conflict, but also rejected a bill aimed at cutting off money for drone strikes in Libya.

The most recent votes on Thursday came on proposed amendments to a defense spending bill making its way through the House. The bill is unlikely to become law in its curren form, as the Senate has yet to pass its version, which then would have to be reconciled with the House bill.

Nonetheless, the vote was another indication of the dissatisfaction on Capitol Hill with Obama's decision to commit U.S. military resources to the NATO-led mission in Libya without first consulting Congress.

Forty-eight Democrats joined 177 Republicans in voting for the measure on aid to rebels, which was presented by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).

The amendment prevents the use of funds to "furnish military equipment, military training or advice, or other support for military activities" to groups such as the Libyan rebels.

The second amendment, offered by Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.), would have more explicitly blocked deployment of U.S. forces to participate in the NATO mission. That amendment failed by a vote of 229 to 199. Still, a majority of Republicans voted for it, while most Democrats opposed it.

Cole’s amendment was modeled after the 1980s-era Boland amendment, a set of measures aimed at limiting U.S. assistance to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels. Cole and his aides said the measure would impose broad restrictions on U.S. involvement, barring many activities.

"In Libya, the president has quite simply overreached," Cole said in remarks on the House floor, adding it was important to "end this ill-advised adventure in Libya."

Last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution by Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to authorize the limited use of force in Libya. The resolution would require congressional authorization for the use of force and would bar deployment of ground troops.

The measure was supposed to be taken up by the full Senate this week, but the vote was postponed.

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