House Republicans and some Democrats are furious with Obama for failing to seek congressional authorization 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 for military actions within 60 days. That deadline has long passed.
Obama stirred congressional unrest last week when he told lawmakers he didn't need authorization because the operation did not rise to full-blown hostilities. NATO commands the Libya 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.
In a last-ditch effort Thursday, Clinton met with rank-and-file Democrats to explain the mission and discuss the implications if the House voted to cut off funds.
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., said Clinton apologized for not coming to Congress earlier but also "expressed her deep concern that you're probably not on the right track when Gadhafi supports your efforts."
Earlier this week Clinton said lawmakers were free to raise questions, but she asked, "Are you on Gadhafi's side, or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been bringing them support?"
In the Senate, backers of a resolution to authorize the operation wondered whether the administration had waited too long to address the concerns of House members.
"It's way late," said McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee. "This is one of the reasons why they're having this veritable uprising in the House, because of a lack of communication. And then the icing on the cake was probably for them when he (Obama) said that we're not engaged in hostilities. That obviously is foolishness."
He added, however, "That is not a reason to pass a resolution that would encourage Moammar Gadhafi to stay in power."
Earlier this month, the House voted 268-145 to rebuke Obama for failing to provide a "compelling rationale" for the Libyan mission and for launching U.S. military forces without congressional approval.
Associated Press writers Jim Abrams and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.
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