WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Friday demanded that President Barack Obama clarify the U.S. role in the conflict in Libya, but rejected an attempt to force him to end America’s military involvement there.
The votes reflected lawmakers’ unease over a third war along with Iraq and Afghanistan, and a view that Obama did not adequately consult Congress before joining a multinational operation that began conducting air strikes in March to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.
But while the measure that passed increases political pressure on Obama over the clash, it lacks the force of law.
The House voted 268-145 for a resolution sponsored by House Speaker John Boehner calling for Obama to inform lawmakers within the next two weeks of the scope, duration and costs of the Libya mission.
The measure reaffirmed a House vote last week forbidding U.S. “boots on the ground” in Libya. It said Obama had offered no compelling rationale for the war, and asked whether NATO operations in Libya would be viable without the United States.
Lawmakers rejected a rival resolution by Democrat Dennis Kucinich directing Obama to halt U.S. participation in the Libyan war within 15 days. That vote was 148-265.
NATO is leading the Libya intervention with a U.S. contribution, but there are no U.S. troops on the ground.
Lawmakers have called for Obama to clarify the U.S. mission since he notified them on March 21 that he had ordered the intervention as part of a coalition conducting air strikes to shield Libyan civilians from Gaddafi’s forces.
Boehner warned lawmakers could take further action if Obama gives them the brush-off. The resolution notes that Congress has the authority to cut off funds for military operations.
“This resolution puts the president on notice,” Boehner said. “He has the chance to get this right, and if he doesn’t, Congress will exercise its constitutional authority and we will make it right.”
Advocates of the Kucinich measure, an odd alliance of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, said Boehner’s measure was toothless, noting there were no plans to pass a similar measure in the Democratic-majority Senate.
The Boehner resolution reprimands the president for not consulting Congress, asks for more information, “and then does nothing,” said Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat.
The White House says it has been consulting regularly with lawmakers about Libya. Spokesman Josh Earnest said on Friday the resolutions before the House were “unnecessary and unhelpful.”
Kucinich said Obama was disregarding the Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to declare war, as well as the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which prohibits U.S. armed forces from being involved in military actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization.
“Many of us want to support our president. But the president has ignored Congress’ essential war powers,” said Kucinich.
The White House suggests that the limited U.S. action in Libya might not reach the War Powers Resolution’s threshold.
Boehner introduced his resolution on Thursday to give lawmakers a way to send a message that they are unhappy about the Libyan situation without supporting the Kucinich resolution, which Republicans worried could “pull the rug” from under U.S. allies conducting operations in Libya.
But 87 Republicans still voted for Kucinich’s resolution, outnumbering the 61 Democratic supporters. “With the civil war in north Africa, there is no clear and present danger to the United States of America,” one of the Republicans, Representative Jason Chaffetz, said.
Editing by Eric Walsh