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Boehner Calls on Obama to Justify Continuing Military Action in Libya and Afghanistan

  • Cindy Saine

Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, May 2, 2011

Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, May 2, 2011

The Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, is calling on President Barack Obama to make his case to the American people for continued U.S. military operations in Libya and Afghanistan. The call comes as frustration in Congress is growing among some lawmakers from both major political parties about the president's failure to obtain authorization from Congress for the participation of U.S. forces in the NATO mission over Libya.

House Speaker John Boehner said in these tough economic times, where Congress is looking to cut government spending wherever possible, there is growing frustration in Congress with the taxpayer dollars that have gone to finance military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that are now flowing to finance the NATO air strikes in Libya.

"Members are a bit weary about the amount of money we have spent in Iraq, in Afghanistan and that we are spending in Libya," said Boehner.

Boehner said the frustration lawmakers are expressing reflects the discontent they are hearing from their constituents. Boehner said he has always stood behind President Obama's goals in Afghanistan, and that he would continue to support him as long as the president keeps listenening to diplomats and military commanders on the ground. But he called on the president to explain his reasons for keeping American troops deployed abroad to the American people.

"The president needs to speak out, in terms of our mission in Afghanistan, our mission in Iraq, our mission in Libya," he said.

At the White House briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the president's decision to continue U.S. participation in efforts to protect civilians in Libya from massacre by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's troops.

"From our vantage point there is pretty unified support in Congress for a policy that calls for the Gadhafi regime to remove itself from power, and we have seen in the actions that this administration has taken enormous amount of progress towards that end, with our unilateral and multilateral non-lethal actions we have taken to tighten the noose around Gadhafi, make it clear to him that his days are numbered, that he will no longer rule Libya and that he needs to remove himself from power," said Carney.

Despite the positive view from the White House, a number of lawmakers from the president's own Democratic Party have been much harsher criticis than Boehner of President Obama's decision to join the NATO mission in Libya without first obtaning formal authorization from Congress.

Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio is pushing for a vote on legislation that would direct an immediate withdrawal of forces from Libya under the 1973 War Powers Resolution. The bill was supposed to come up for a vote in the House on Wednesday, but was suddenly removed from the schedule. Kucinich said it was because it likely would have garned enough votes from both Democrats and Republicans to pass, which would have been a major embarassment for President Obama.

On Thursday, the House narrowly defeated an amendment from Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman of California that aimed to restrict funds for the Libya mission. The vote was 213 votes against the amendment and 208 in favor. Sherman has repeatedly condemned the Obama administration for continuing operations in Libya for more than the 60 days permitted for the president to deploy troops abroad without congressional authorization under the War Powers Act.

"The administration takes the extremist view that the executive can deploy any amount of American force anywhere, anytime, for any purpose, for any duration, with any effect, with only the most cursory discussions with a few members of Congress," said Sherman.

House Republicans are meeting late Thursday in what appears to be an effort to craft their own alternatiive resolution on Libya, and they could hold a vote on it on the House floor as early as Friday. The Democratic-led Senate may vote next week on a resolution expressing support for the president's decision to take part in the Libya mission.