Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The House harshly scolded President Barack Obama on Friday for launching U.S. military forces against Libya without congressional approval, fiercely disputing constitutional powers and flashing bipartisan frustration over a nearly three-month-old conflict with no end in sight.
However, lawmakers stopped short of a more draconian resolution to order an outright end to U.S. involvement in Libya. They rejected that measure, 265-148, with anti-war Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio winning the votes of 87 Republicans and 61 Democrats.
Over White House objections, the House did adopt a resolution chastising Obama for failing to provide a "compelling rationale" for the Libyan mission and demanding answers in the next 14 days on the operation's objective, its costs and its impact on the nation's two other wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resolution, though non-binding, says U.S. ground forces must not be used in the conflict except to rescue an American service member.
The vote was 268-145 for the measure by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, with 45 Democrats joining 223 Republicans in a challenge to the Democratic president.
The resolution will not affect current military operations to aid the rebels who are battling Moammar Gadhafi's forces. 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.
The hours of debate reflected the anger among House members over Obama's treatment of Congress, over tea party concerns about constitutional authority and expensive military operations in tough fiscal times and the nation's growing weariness over war — in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Obama ordered air strikes in March after a U.N. resolution and limited consultation with Congress. The Constitution says Congress has the power to declare war, and the 1973 War Powers Resolution requires the president to obtain congressional authorization within 60 days of the start of military operations, a deadline that passed last month.
"This is a defining moment for the Constitution," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. "For the president to suggest he got approval from the United Nations is offensive and is wrong. We must stand tall and true to the Constitution."
Democrats as well as Republicans criticized the commander in chief.
"Shall the president, like the king of England, be a dictator on foreign policy?" asked Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. "The authors of the Constitution said we don't trust kings."
Freshman Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., revived candidate Obama's words from December 2007 when he said the president does not have the constitutional power to unilaterally authorize a military attack unless there is an imminent threat to the nation.
"The current president got it right in 2007," Scott said.
The White House pushed back against both resolutions, with spokesman Josh Earnest calling them "unnecessary and unhelpful."
"It is the view of this administration that we've acted in accordance with the war powers act because of these regular consultations," Earnest said aboard Air Force One en route to Toledo, Ohio.
Not so, scoffed Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.
"What did he do, send a tweet to the chairman of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees?" Gingrey asked mockingly during the debate.
In Libya on Friday, rebels contended they had forced Gadhafi's troops from three western towns and had broken the siege on another as NATO jets bombed 10 targets across the country.
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