Senate Authorizes President's Mission in Libya

Caryn Freeman 6:45PM EST
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee authorized the president’s mission in Libya today in a mark-up hearing on S.J. resolution 20, a joint resolution authorizing limited use of the United States armed forces in the NATO mission in Libya. Senator Kerry’s (D-MA) opening remarks outlined what the American public, the White House and the State Department have been waiting to hear from Congress for weeks now. “Do we want to stop this operation?” Kerry asked “That’s what it really comes down to. What we are doing here today is not of small consequence” he said.  The committee delineated three elemental goals of the resolution; 1. The committee agreed to authorize limited use of the armed forces, 2. The authorization expires in one year, 3. Congress does not and will not support ground troops.
Senator Lugar (R-IN) joined the debate expressing his displeasure, explaining to the committee that the U.S. should not be “intervening in a civil war” and the mission in Libya was an “expensive distraction,” he said. The Senator also elucidated that at times the use of military to “right wrongs can be a tremendous temptation for a President” Lugar also introduced five amendments to the resolution, requiring monthly reports from the White House on the mission in Libya, a binding resolution that no U.S. troops will be used, restrictions on U.S. involvement limited to Intel and fuel support, legally binding prohibition of funding the mission and considerations for reimbursement of costs incurred by the U.S. from their involvement in Libya
Senator Corker (R-TN) took aim at the June 15th letter from the White House to members of Congress stating that the “U.S. is not engaged in hostilities.” Interpretation of the term “hostilities” has been fueling the fight between the White House and Congress on whether U.S. involvement in Libya has violated the 1973 War Powers Resolution.

Senator Corker is concerned, as are many other members of Congress, that this sets a dangerous precedent for a president to decide for himself how to define "hostilities.” Corker told the committee as well as White House staff, many of whom attended the hearing, that the administration has been “cute” in their response and has triggered a “firestorm in Congress.” Senator Durbin (D-IL) joined the debate and asserted that the president’s opinion was “not relevant at this point,” noting the War Powers Act had been triggered.

In a 9-5 vote the committee approved the resolution that will in effect give congressional authorization to U.S. involvement in Libya but with strict limits on U.S. military activities and congressional funds.

Senator Webb (R-VA) and Senator Lugar also introduced amendments that would prevent private contractors and post conflict troops from receiving funding from Congress