The vote failed 180-238 – but, in fact, there were more than enough lawmakers to pass the measure. Of the 149 Democrats who stuck with the president, up to 70 of them are totally opposed to the Libya intervention and want to see it completely defunded as soon as possible. They voted “no” on the Rooney’s bill because they thought it was too weak, did not cut off all funds, and implicitly authorized the intervention [bold mine-DL].
These 70 Democrats make up the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the largest caucus within the House Democratic Caucus, whose leadership includes Reps. Mike Honda (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).
“Members of Congress voted no because the bill provided funding and legal authority for everything we’re currently doing. It was back door authorization. Members didn’t support authorizing what we’re doing now in Libya,” Michael Shank, Honda’s spokesman, told The Cable. “The majority of the CPC voted no on the Rooney vote because of this.”
In other words, if the GOP had put forth a stronger anti-Libya resolution, the progressive Democrats would have joined them and it would have passed. Despite what Clinton or other administration officials may say, the bill’s failure cannot be seen as an endorsement of the Libya war. ~Josh Rogin
This makes sense of the voting patterns among those Republicans known to be opposed to the war on constitutional and other substantive grounds. For example, Justin Amash, Ron Paul, Jimmy Duncan, and Walter Jones are all among the Republicans who voted against both resolutions on Friday. Had the “defunding” resolution actually defunded the war, they would have voted in favor. Like the progressives Rogin mentions in his post, these antiwar conservatives opposed the “defunding” resolution because they saw it as effectively authorizing almost everything U.S. forces are doing right now. As Rogin explained, this objection to the “defunding” resolution was a major factor in explaining its defeat. Rogin quotes Rep. McClintock to this effect:
“This bill purports to cut off funding for combat in Libya. In doing so it simply forbids what the constitution already forbids, the waging of war without explicit congressional authorization. But then it specifically grants to the president what up until now he has completely lacked: Congressional authority to engage in every conceivable belligerent act short of actually pulling the trigger.”
“Refueling bombers on their way to targets, identifying and selecting targets, guiding munitions to their targets, logistical support, operational planning… these are all acts of war in direct support of belligerence at war and this bill authorizes them,” he said. “Let’s not enter a war through the backdoor when we have already decided not to enter it through the front.”
This gets to the heart of the issue, which is whether or not Congress is willing to accept the bogus claim that the U.S. military is not engaged in hostilities when it is providing refueling, surveillance, logistical support, and planning in support of an ongoing war effort that would not be feasible without that support. The good news from Friday’s votes is that the House has not authorized the Libyan war in any form, and it has specifically rejected the argument that actively supporting a war effort does not constitute involvement in hostilities. The bad news is that the House GOP leadership keeps trying to find ways to divert discontent in the House into symbolic protest votes or backdoor authorizations, which suggests that they will continue trying to block any measure that would meaningfully halt U.S. participation in the war.
Juan Cole misunderstands the significance of the House votes:
Whatever its domestic meaning, the vote undeniably sent unfortunate signals abroad. You have to wonder whether, for good or ill, the vote is the end of NATO. The US House can hardly ask the British and French to risk their young soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan if it can’t be bothered to vote to help defend the latter’s aircraft over Libya.
If Libya proves to be the end of NATO, or at least the last military intervention carried out under NATO auspices, it will be because of the pressure by the U.S. and Britain to “hand off” command and control of the war to the alliance when most of its members did not want to become involved in Libya. Members of the House did not put NATO’s reputation and future on the line in Libya. The administration did that when it opted to reduce the U.S. role and abuse the alliance to coordinate the ongoing attack on Libya. Making the Libyan war into a NATO operation has provided the intervening governments with some useful political cover, and it has been especially useful for the administration and the House leadership to use as a bludgeon against opponents of the war. Britain and France insisted on intervening in Libya, and the U.S. made it possible for them to do so, and if France had had its way NATO would never have become involved. For its part, the administration made commitments to Britain and France that it had no authority to make, and now it may end up paying the price for that overreach.
This has never had anything to do with European contributions to the war in Afghanistan. When it made a primarily Anglo-French expedition into a NATO operation, the administration has created a phony issue that the U.S. must remain involved in Libya for the sake of NATO. Much like the administration’s claim that the U.S. is not currently engaged in hostilities in Libya, the claim that the U.S. must continue in the Libyan war for the sake of the alliance is false and fundamentally dishonest.