In the Senate, McCain and Kerry Introduce Libya Resolution

Jun 21, 2011 12:29pm

ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:

Countering efforts in the House to cut off funds for the operation in Libya, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, introduced a resolution on Libya on the Senate floor this morning.

The resolution authorizes force in Libya – but specifies that the mission is limited in scope, with no U.S. ground troops. It grants President Obama authority for one year to advance U.S. national security interests as part of NATO's efforts against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

This is not a blank check for the President,” Senator Kerry said on the Senate floor this morning, “This resolution authorizes the limited use of American forces in a supporting role. It says specifically that the Senate does not support the use of ground troops in Libya. And it authorizes this limited use of American forces for a limited duration – it would expire in a year.”

Senator Kerry defended the Obama administration claim that the U.S. is not involved in “hostilities” in the region, and thus their involvement is consistent with the War Powers Resolution and does not require further congressional authorization.

“I do not think our limited involvement rises to the level of hostilities defined by the war powers resolution,” Kerry said, “This is true especially since March 31 when NATO took the lead in the Libyan operation and U.S. forces assumed the clearly defined support role the president outlined."

Kerry said both Democratic and Republican presidents have taken limited military action in the last three decades without congressional authorization –citing Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Kosovo.  

Kerry called on his colleagues to support the resolution – so that this does not send the wrong message to Colonel Gadhafi.

“The last message any United States senator wants to send is that this mad man need only wait us out because we are divided at home. Passage of this resolution will be an important step in showing the country, the rest of the world and particularly Moammar Gadhafi that the Congress of the United States and the President of the United States are committed to this critical endeavor.”

Kerry said if Congress pulls the plug on the NATO mission and take “the radical steps that some of the House are advocating,” then it will “only doom  the Libyan operation,” “undermine the very core of NATO" and will put the United States “in danger.”

Senator McCain, not missing the opportunity to take a few swipes at the administration, noted that while he does believe that the president had some right by intervening to stop a “looming humanitarian disaster” in Libya, the way the administration went about it was not correct, and has caused a lot of the problems, namely the House “revolt” that the administration is facing this week.

“The President could have asked Congress to authorize our intervention in Libya many months ago, and I believe it could have received a strong, though certainly not unanimous, show of support,” Senator McCain said on the Senate floor, “The Administration’s disregard for the elected representatives of the American people on this matter has been troubling and counterproductive. And the unfortunate result of this failure of leadership is plain to see in the full-scale revolt against the Administration’s Libya policy that has occurred in the House of Representatives.”

But amid all of the arguments over “prudence, legality, and constitutionality of the Administration’s policy in Libya,” McCain says the main point cannot be forgotten.

“We are succeeding. Ghadafi is weakening. His military leaders and closest associates are abandoning him. NATO is increasing the tempo of its operations and degrading Ghadafi’s military capabilities and command and control. The Transitional National Council is gaining international recognition and support and performing more effectively. And though their progress is uneven, opposition forces in Libya are making strategic gains on the ground.”

McCain said it is only a matter of time until Gadhafi is going to fall and called on his colleagues to support this resolution.

“Is this the time for Congress to turn against this policy? Is this the time to ride to the rescue of a failing tyrant when the writing is on the wall that he will collapse? Is this the time for Congress to declare to the world – to Ghadafi and his inner circle, to all of the Libyans who are sacrificing to force Ghadafi from power, and to our NATO allies, who are carrying a far heavier burden in this military operation than 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 we will abandon our closest friends and allies on a whim?”

Speaking directly to his Republican colleagues, McCain urged them to think seriously about how a vote to cut off funding for this military operation “could come back to haunt a future President when the shoe is on the other foot,” when a Republican occupies the White House again and may need to commit U.S. armed forces to hostilities.

“The House of Representatives will have its say on our involvement in Libya this week, but the Senate has been silent for too long,” McCain said, “It is time for the Senate to speak. And when that time comes, I believe we will find a strong, bipartisan majority that is in favor of authorizing our current military operations in Libya and seeing this mission through to success. That is a message that Ghadafi needs to hear."

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