GOP Senators Back U.S. Involvement in Libya

Posted June 19, 2011 at 11:17am

Republican Senators on Sunday defended the ongoing American military involvement in Libya even as the House prepares to assert its authority under the War Powers Act to require Congressional approval of the campaign against strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

“The War Powers Act is unconstitutional and not worth the paper it is written on,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The president needs to step up his game in Libya, but Congress should sort of shut up and not empower Gadhafi.”

Graham added that he would not support in any way an effort to defund U.S. efforts in Libya.

Sen. John McCain, who has been critical of the administration for its handling of the conflict, also maintained that the U.S. needs to continue its presence in Libya.

“If we do not continue this effort in Libya, if Gadhafi remains in power, it could have profound consequences,” the Arizona Republican said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The support of U.S. military action in Libya follows Speaker John Boehner telling the White House that it should expect another vote on Libya this week. The Ohio Republican has criticized the administration’s assertion that no hostilities are being taken in Libya and that it does not classify as a war effort requiring Congressional approval.

It is unclear what kind of floor action the House might take this week, when the chamber considers the Defense appropriations bill, which could be amended with proposals regarding Libya.

While President Barack Obama has maintained that the effort is led by NATO allies, Members have largely asserted that under the War Powers Act, the president must have Congress’ approval to continue committing military and financial resources in the troubled North African country.

Sen. Dick Durbin said on “Meet the Press” that he supports Obama’s efforts in Libya but that he still needs Congressional approval.

“It’s true the War Powers Act is an infringement on the president,” the Illinois Democrat said. “So is the Constitution, which makes clear the American people make decisions about going to war through Members of Congress.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who with nine other lawmakers is suing Obama for allegedly violating the War Powers Act, has vowed to propose an amendment to the defense reauthorization bill on the floor this week to defund the effort in Libya. The anti-war advocate cited a New York Times report that two top legal advisers suggested Obama needed Congressional approval for the Libyan effort.

The deadline for such approval under the War Powers Act was May 20, but under the law the president has an additional 30-day window. Others on Obama’s legal team, however, argued that military efforts fell short of “hostilities” and so Congressional approval was not necessary.

The White House issued a 30-page report to Congress on Wednesday night arguing that the U.S. had moved to a support role in Libya and that the absence of ground troops meant no Congressional approval was needed.

Jessica Brady and Paul Singer contributed to this article.