Debate over Libya Mission “Hostilities” Creates Hostility On The Hill

By Eliza

Jun 16, 2011 5:44pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:

“Hostilities” is the hot word on the Hill right now.

And if today’s statements on the Senate floor are any indication, the Libya report the White House sent Congress yesterday seems to have only increased anger among members of Congress.

Today on the Senate floor two Republicans capitalized on the Obama administrations report – specifically the part which says the president views the US military operation in Libya as consistent with the War Powers Resolution and does not require further congressional authorization “because US military operations are distinct from the kind of hostilities contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.”

This created a lot of hostility  in the Senate today.

“It’s bizarre that the administration has sent over a letter yesterday referring to the fact that we’re not involved in hostilities in Libya,” Senator Corker, R-Tenn., said on the Senate floor, “I mean it’s really totally bizarre when you look at what’s going on right now in the air in Libya right now.”

Corker said that the administration has been saying “one thing in private” to Senators and then saying something else different in public. He questioned how the administration should expect Senators to feel “any degree of credibility regarding those statement.”

Corker, along with Senator Jim Webb, D-VA., introduced last week a measure requiring a “detailed justification” of the US operation in Libya from the administration.

Senator McCain, R-AZ., called yesterday’s report from the administration a “confusing breach of common sense,” and is a “puzzling assertion.”

“They say because the United States is not engaged in a state of hostilities in Libya,” McCain said on the Senate floor today, “I am no legal scholar, but I find it hard to swallow that US armed forces dropping bombs and killing enemy personnel in a foreign country doesn’t amount to a state of hostilities.”

McCain says this adds more confusion to the administration’s “already confusing policy” in Libya.

“The result of all this, I hate to say, is plain to see in the actions of our colleagues on the other side of Capitol, in the House. There is massive and growing opposition to continuing the US involvement in Libya.”

McCain was of course referencing the House legislation passed on Libya and said there could be a vote soon to cut off funding for the entire operation.

“The accumulated consequence of all this delay, confusion, and abstention has been a whole sale revolt in Congress against the administration’s policy.”

McCain may be tearing apart the messaging and communication of the Obama administration – but he does support the mission.  He called on his Senate colleagues to do the same and warned that opposition could empower Moammar Gadhafi.

“Is this the time to ride to the rescue of the man who President Reagan called ‘the mad dog of the Middle East?’ is this the time for Congress to declare to the world, to Gadhafi and his inner circle, all the Libyans who are sacrificing to force Gadhafi from power, to our NATO allies, who are carrying a far heavier burden in this military operation that we are, is this the time for America to tell all of these different audiences that our heart is not in this. That we have neither the will nor the capability to see this mission through. That will be abandon our closest friends and allies on a whim.”

McCain compared this to the fight over the Iraq War with the Bush administration and Congress.

“Many of us remember well the way that some of our friends on the other side of the aisle savaged President Bush over the Iraq war, how they sought to do everything in their power to tie his hands, and pull America out of that conflict with far too little care for the consequences that their actions would have our friends, our allies, our interests, and our moral standing as the world’s leading power. We were right to condemn this behavior then,” McCain said, “I would say to my Republican friends: If this were a Republican president, would you be trying to impose these same conditions?”

Senator Kerry and McCain will introduce an authorization for the limited use of military force in Libya soon, but it is not clear what support they have within the Senate yet. Many are pushing for a tougher resolution similar to the House’s.

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