Friday, June 24, 2011

House GOP Leaders Embarrassed in 'Sure-Thing' Libya Vote

Updated at 7 p.m. edt

The Republican sponsor of the failed House bill that would have defunded the NATO mission in Libya is falling on his own sword, taking the blame for the measure's defeat.

"It was my bill. You can blame me," an apologetic Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told Fox News. "I think we tried to limit funds so our kids weren't in harm's way but not leave NATO on their own. People either wanted all or they wanted nothing. Now we are back to square one."

Some 89 Republicans voted against the measure.

It was an embarrassing defeat for the majority party in the Republican-controlled House because it detracted from the victory that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pulled off by defeating a resolution that would have authorized the Libya operation for a year.

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An anticipated slam-dunk vote today in the House on a GOP measure to cut funding for the NATO air campaign in Libya turned into an in-your-face rejection when the measure was shockingly defeated.

The vote was 238-180 in opposition of the legislation to cut off money for the air campaign and bar the U.S. from launching drone attacks and airstrikes in the NATO-led campaign.

The embarrassed GOP House leadership claimed it did not conduct a whip count -- the tally of support that is usually done ahead of a contentious vote.

Earlier, however, the House voted as expected to reject a non-binding resolution allowing the U.S. to conduct military operations in Libya for one year. It also barred the U.S. from deploying ground forces, but that is a non-issue since President Obama has said from the start there would be no boots on the ground.

Despite an 11th-hour plea from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, some 70 Democrats split with Obama in the  295-123 vote that denied support for the air campaign. The vote came as a new poll today shows more Americans are now opposed to the Libya mission.

House members are miffed that Obama has decided the Libya campaign does not fall under the War Powers resolution of 1973 because it does not amount to "hostilities," since, as the President argues, the U.S. is only providing support to NATO at this point.

The War Powers resolution requires a President to consult Congress when the U.S. goes to war within a couple of months after the hostilities commence.

The House-approved resolution is expected to die in the Senate, where a powerful bipartisan coalition led by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are set to approve a year-long air campaign.

The vote, nonetheless, was still slap in the face for the White House.

"We think now is not the time to send the kind of mixed message that it sends when we are working with our allies to achieve the goals that we believe that are widely shared in Congress: Protecting civilians in Libya, enforcing a no-fly zone, enforcing an arms embargo and further putting pressure on Gadhafi," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

"And the writing is on the wall for Col.Gadhafi, and now is not the time to let up," Carney added.

The last time Congress rejected a President's will to conduct a war came in 1999 when it barred President Bill Clinton from using ground forces to engage Serb troops in Muslim-dominated Kosovo.

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