WASHINGTON — The House voted Thursday to bar military aid to Libyan rebels battling Moammar Gadhafi but stopped short of prohibiting funds for U.S. involvement in a NATO-led mission now in its fourth month.
Sending a muddled message in the constitutional challenge to President Barack Obama, House Republicans and Democrats signaled their frustration with American participation in a stalemated civil war but also showed their unwillingness to end the operation.
The congressional unrest stems in large part from Obama's decision not to seek congressional consent for a third war in addition to years-long conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Congress has allowed the president to overreach in Libya," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. "We should not be engaged in military action of this level unless it is authorized and funded by Congress."
The House voted 225-201 for an amendment sponsored by Cole to bar the Pentagon from providing "military equipment, training or advice or other support for military activities," to an outside group, such as rebel forces, for military action in or against Libya.
Forty-eight Democrats backed the Republican-sponsored measure.
The intent of the measure is to prohibit aid to the rebels such as weapons and assistance to their Transitional National Council, including operational planning.
In fact, Obama has authorized $25 million in nonlethal assistance to the rebels, including thousands of meals ready to eat from Pentagon stocks. The U.S. has also supplied some $53 million in humanitarian aid. Neither would be affected by the bill.
Moments after the vote, the House rejected a measure that would have prohibited funds for the U.S. military to continue its limited role. The vote was 229-199, with 67 Democrats breaking with the administration to support the amendment.