Wednesday, June 8, 2011

H. Res. 292 - The House Wants U. S. Forces Out of Libya - OR IS THIS A PRETEXT FOR IMPEACHMENT?

House Resolution 294 is the Rule that brought  H. Res. 292 to the floor of the House.  H. Res. 292, introduced by Speaker John Boehner [R-OH], will prohibit President Obama from deploying ground troops in Libya except to rescue a member of the American military.

There was an hour of debate.  Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen[R-FL], the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, controlled time for those in favor of H. Res. 292.    Representative Dennis Kucinich [D-OH] was in charge of  debate for those members opposed to the resolution.

This is kind of funny.  Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was a staunch advocate of the use of military force against Libyan dictator Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi and his regime until President Obama took the action she urged. 

On February 22nd Ros-Lehtinen said "[t]he United States and all responsible nations should show in both word and deed that we condemn the Libyan regime’s actions and that we will not tolerate such blatant disregard for human life and basic freedoms. " 

Then on February 26th she added "The executive order freezing the assets of Libyan regime officials and blocking defense-related exports to Libya is a positive first step, but stronger penalties must be imposed in order to hold the regime accountable for its heinous crimes, and to prevent further violence against the Libyan people." 

Ros-Lehtinen went on to ask for that which Obama has given. "Additional U.S. and international measures should include the establishment and enforcement of a no-fly zone, a comprehensive arms embargo, a travel ban on regime officials, immediate suspension of all contracts and assistance which benefit the regime, and the imposition of restrictions on foreign investment in Libya, including in Libya’s oil sector," she said.

Now she controls debate on a resolution that is a complete about-face from her previously stated position.

The President fares no better with Kucinich.  The Rule, H, Res, 294 named Kucinich, or his designee, as the member in charge of debate. Remember, it was Kucinich who offered up H. Con. Res. 51 claiming that Obama is in violation of the War Powers Act. Kucinich is opposed to any involvement between our military and Libya.  Kucinich is also opposed to Boehner's H. Res. 292.  The Hill reported June 3rd that Kucinich does not see H.Res.292 as a substitute for H. Con. Res. 51.  The article,  by Mike Lillis, quotes Kucinich as saying "There are clear differences, and it is imperative that members clearly understand them because a consequence of voting for one (H. Res. 292) and not the other (H. Con. Res. 51) is an endorsement of the illegal and unconstitutional action that has been taken by the White House." Nonetheless Kucinich voted for Boehner's resolution.

Howard Berman [D-CA] rose in opposition to H. Res. 292.  He said:
There are two choices here. If the majority thinks that the President's initial efforts to stop a humanitarian catastrophe were wrong or that current operations in Libya do not have a compelling national security rationale, it should support Mr. Kucinich's approach and offer a concurrent resolution pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution requiring the removal of U.S. forces.

If the majority has concerns with Mr. Kucinich's approach, as many of us do, and believes terminating military action would have grave consequences for U.S. national security, it should simply authorize the use of force in Libya, incorporating the restrictions on ground forces that this resolution has, that the Conyers language in the DOD bill had. I would gladly join the Speaker in cosponsoring such an authorization of the limited use of force.

But pursuing a nonbinding House Resolution that takes potshots at the President and amounts to nothing more than a sense of the Congress is just an exercise in political gamesmanship. It is a pedantic effort to embarrass the President without taking any ownership for the policy of the intervention.

The majority, not the President, puts this body in a position of powerlessness through such toothless efforts. We are 60 days into this operation. Either we should authorize this action or terminate, not play around with reporting requirements.

The resolution is also confusing. It states that the President shall not deploy or maintain the presence of U.S. military units on the ground in Libya.

But as the majority well knows, U.S. military activities are limited to air operations and nothing more. So does this language mean the majority is okay with the current intervention in Libya? The majority seems to be raising a fuss while winking at the White House. That's not the way to legislate.

Finally, I object to the resolution because it is downright inaccurate. The resolution implies that there is no compelling national security rationale for operations in Libya. But U.S. interests are clear. They have been forcefully articulated by the administration and, ironically, by conservative advocates like Bill Kristol.

We are in Libya because we are averting a probable massacre against civilians. We are in Libya because our NATO partners need our help. Refusal to act there would send a message to NATO allies, who are putting their forces on the line in Afghanistan, that we are not a dependable partner. We are in Libya because our friends struggling for democracy in the Middle East are watching events there. If we failed to act, or worse, seek withdrawal today, what will we be saying to the activists in Tunisia and Egypt, whose fragile movements for democracy could be stifled by the destabilizing effect of a Qadhafi-led government remaining in power? And what message would we be sending to Assad and to other dictators and enemies about our staying power?

Let's not kid ourselves. A Qadhafi who is unleashed to commit acts of terrorism around the world will do so with unspeakable barbarity. We know Qadhafi's record of bloodshed, and we know his readiness to use terror, especially now that he has nothing to lose. I cannot think of a more compelling rationale for current operations in Libya.

I object to the characterization that U.S. national security interests and humanitarian objectives are incompatible. In Libya, it is quite clear that stopping murder and preventing a refugee crisis very much correspond with U.S. national interests.
Lillis reports support for Obama from Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  "Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) defended the White House on Thursday, arguing that both the Boehner and Kucinich proposals “do not advance our efforts in the region and send the wrong message to our NATO partners."   
H. Res. 292 came to a vote on June 3rd.  The resolution passed on Roll Call 411 by a vote of 268 to 145.

The White House said that "... we feel confident that, A, the President is executing a policy decision that he made in exactly the manner that he said he would; that our consultations have been consistent, and that we’re acting consistently with the War Powers resolution; and finally that we would welcome and support a resolution similar to or exactly like the Kerry-McCain resolution in the Senate."
The Kerry-McCain resolution is S. Res. 194 the pertinent part of that resolution follows.

Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) supports the aspirations of the Libyan people for political reform and self-government based on democratic and human rights;
(2) commends the service of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and our coalition partners who are engaged in military operations to protect the people of Libya;
(3) supports the limited use of military force by the United States in Libya as part of the NATO mission to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011), as requested by the Transitional National Council, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council;
(4) agrees that the goal of United States policy in Libya, as stated by the President, is to achieve the departure from power of Muammar Qaddafi and his family, including through the use of non-military means, so that a peaceful transition can begin to an inclusive government that ensures freedom, opportunity, and justice for the people of Libya;
(5) affirms that the funds of the Qaddafi regime that have been frozen by the United States should be returned to the Libyan people for their benefit, including humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, and calls for exploring with the Transitional National Council the possibility of using some of such funds to reimburse NATO member countries for expenses incurred in Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Unified Protector; and
(6) calls on the President--
(A) to submit to Congress a description of United States policy objectives in Libya, both during and after Qaddafi's rule, and a detailed plan to achieve them; and
(B) to consult regularly with Congress regarding United States efforts in Libya.
With the House claiming a violation of the War Powers Act and the President insisting that he is in compliance expect D.C. tensions to keep rising.  My best guess is that the Republicans suddenly changing policy positions is a pretext for impeachment.


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