House rejects effort to defund Libya action

The U.S. House has turned back a Republican-led effort to cut off money for military hostilities in the Libyan war.

The vote Friday was 238-180. It came after the House had overwhelmingly rejected a largely symbolic measure to give President Barack Obama the authority to continue U.S. involvement in the military operation against Muammar Qaddafi's forces.

The funding measure would have barred drone attacks and airstrikes but allowed the United States to continue actions in support of NATO.

House Republican leaders pushed for the vote, with rank-and-file members saying the president broke the law by failing to seek congressional approval for the 3-month-old war.

The Republican leader of the House, Speaker John Boehner, said he supported the president's authority as commander in chief. "But when the president chooses to challenge the powers of the Congress, I as speaker of the House will defend the constitutional authority of the legislature," he said.

Some Democrats accused the Republicans of playing politics with national security. They said the vote would send a message to Qaddafi.

Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said the vote would essentially "stop the mission in Libya and empower Muammar Qaddafi."

Other Republicans and Democrats, however, are furious with Obama for failing to seek congressional authorization as required under the War Powers Resolution. The 1973 law, often ignored by Republican and Democratic presidents, says the commander in chief must seek congressional consent for military actions within 60 days. That deadline has long passed.

Obama stirred congressional unrest last week when he told lawmakers he did not need authorization because the operation was not full-blown hostilities. NATO commands the Libya operation, but the United States still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work as well as drone attacks and bombings.

A New York Times report that said Obama overruled some of his legal advisers further incensed members of Congress.

In a last-ditch effort Thursday, Clinton met with rank-and-file Democrats to explain the mission and discuss the implications if the House votes to cut off funds. The administration requested the closed-door meeting.

Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said Clinton apologized for not coming to Congress earlier. But he said she warned about the implications of a House vote to cut off money.

"The secretary expressed her deep concern that you're probably not on the right track when Qaddafi supports your efforts," Walz said.

Rep. Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said such a vote "ensures the failure of the whole mission."

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