Members of Congress sent an embarrassing message to President Obama by voting to reject a formal authorization of the use of force in Libya.
The House on Friday voted down a resolution similar to one recently passed in the Senate expressing support for the U.S. mission by a vote of 123 to 295.
The Associated Press reported that the vote is the first time since 1999 that Congress has voted against the president’s authority to conduct a military operation.
“The president has not made the case for committing our military to the conflict in Libya,” said Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican. “The president claims these military actions do not constitute hostilities. However, the American people know otherwise.”
The rejection is an embarrassment for Obama, who has been accused by opponents of the mission of violating the 1973 War Powers Resolution by not getting congressional approval before entering the conflict.
Obama counters that congressional authorization isn’t necessary because it is a NATO-led conflict and the U.S. is only playing a supporting role. (Cantor says House to vote on balanced budget amendment)
But the House on Friday did not go as far as some Republicans had wanted. A bill cutting funding for the military operation in Libya and restricting the United States’ role there failed by 238 to 180. The bill itself was meant to be symbolic, since it had little chance of passing the Senate even if it had prevailed in the House.
The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida.
Some opponents accuse the Republicans of playing politics with a military conflict; others warned of dire consequences.
“If this resolution passes, and we weaken NATO’s mission, Qaddafi may very well prevail,” said Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia. “His forces will then kill, rape or torture all those Libyans who opposed him, as he already tried to do.”