Clinton argues for Libya mission before House panel


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Scrambling to turn back the fiercest congressional challenge to the president’s military authority on Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pleaded with House Democrats on Thursday to continue U.S. military involvement in the NATO-led operation.

Defiant Republican leaders pushed toward a crucial vote to cut off funds for hostilities.

Just hours after bluntly posing the question, “Whose side are you on?” — Moammar Gadhafi or the Libyan people — Clinton met with rank-and-file Democrats to explain the mission and the stakes if the House votes to prohibit funds. The administration requested the closed-door meeting.

“The issue today, as she pointed out, was whether or not we were going to abandon what is an effort that our allies have made at the request of the United Nations, the Arab League and others to intervene and to support our allies in this effort,” Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said after the session. “I agree with her strongly that ... to send any signal today that Congress is not supportive of the effort to involve itself in a humanitarian effort at the request of a broad international coalition would be a mistake.”

House Republicans and Democrats are furious with President Barack Obama for failing to seek congressional authorization for the 3-month-old war against Libya, as required under the War Powers Resolution. The 1973 law, often ignored by Republican and Democratic presidents, says the commander in chief must seek congressional consent within 60 days. That deadline long has passed.

Obama stirred congressional unrest last week when he told lawmakers he didn’t need authorization because the operation was not full-blown hostilities. NATO commands the operation, but the United States still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work as well as drone attacks and bombings.

A New York Times report that said Obama overruled some of his legal advisers further incensed members of Congress.

Reflecting the widespread dissatisfaction, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the chamber will vote today on two measures: a resolution to authorize the operation and legislation that would cut off funds for hostilities such as Predator drone attacks and airstrikes.

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