He’s forcing him to make a decision. And you know how he hates to make decisions.
In a resolution to be voted on in the House tomorrow, Boehner is giving the president two weeks – until the Pentagon Appropriations bill comes up – to either:
a) Ask for authorization for the military intervention in Libya, or
b) Figure out how to disengage the US from the NATO operation in Libya.
The resolution states: “The President has not sought, and Congress has not provided, authorization for the introduction or continued involvement of the United States Armed Forces in Libya. Congress has the constitutional prerogative to withhold funding for any unauthorized use of the United States Armed Forces, including for unauthorized activities regarding Libya.”
Boehner is explicitly and formally stating that the president did not check the box on the War Powers Act before sending the US military to intervene in Libya.
Actually, I think Boehner’s the one being forced to make a decision. Dennis Kucinich recently introduced a resolution demanding immediate withdrawal from the Libya coalition; the GOP leadership had to scramble to yank it from the floor before a vote yesterday when it started to look like the thing might actually pass. The new plan, I thought, was to offer a watered-down resolution by Republican Michael Turner and 63 co-sponsors stating that the House “does not approve” of the mission, but I guess even that’s a bridge too far for GOP strategists. Operations in Libya remain popular-ish with the public thanks to the war’s small footprint and lack of media coverage, and Republicans are probably worried after the Bin Laden raid about ceding too much of their cred among hawks to Obama ahead of the election. Hence Boehner’s resolution, which frames congressional opposition as procedural rather than substantive. He’s not saying the GOP disapproves of the mission, just that it disapproves of the way Obama’s handled it legally under the War Powers Act. It’s a punt, in other words, not unlike how The One punted recently on this issue by asking for a resolution of congressional support but not a formal authorization of the mission under the WPA. Hot potato!
One slight flaw in Boehner’s plan, though: Isn’t the choice presented by his resolution an easy call for Obama? He’s not going to be cowed by the House into pulling out of the mission, especially given the defections in Qaddafi’s military lately and new pressures on the regime. He’ll call Boehner’s bluff and formally request authorization, knowing that any House resolution that passes will deadlock in the Senate anyway. Before the Bin Laden raid, I might have thought he’d be leery of letting Congress challenge his authority as C-in-C by risking a “no” vote, but post-OBL, even if the House votes no in bipartisan fashion, it won’t do him much harm. He’ll cite the fact that there hasn’t been a single American casualty in Libya, that Qaddafi’s own cronies are starting to abandon him, etc, and then this will drop off the media radar. But at least it’ll change the topic for the GOP from Medicare for a few days. Small victories, right?
Exit question: What if Boehner’s resolution passes and Obama simply ignores it, or sends back a letter reminding him that the House is free to vote on authorization or deauthorization without a formal presidential request? What’s the GOP’s move then?