Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives denied President Obama’s proposal for authorization for a year-long mission in Libya. In fact, the House decisively voted to deny Obama the authority to wage war in Libya altogether; Republicans were unable, however, to cut off funds for any and all operations in Libya.
We can infer a great deal from this legislative-executive showdown. For one, lawmakers are evidently concerned about any open-ended U.S. commitment to war, particularly in the aftermath of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, they are concerned about the nature of this specific conflict between Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and the rebel forces seeking to expel him. Finally, the 295-123 vote sends a clear message from representatives to Barack Obama: Do not go over our heads.Although Obama claimed last week he did not need congressional authorization within 60 days, as the War Powers Resolution stipulates he must, because operations in Libya did not amount to full-blown hostilities, the House clearly did not buy it. Obama has, as yesterday’s vote shows, effectively incensed his legislative counterpart.