Kerry, McCain Introduce Resolution to Authorize Limited U.S. Role in Libya


Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced a resolution in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday that would authorize a limited military presence in Libya, heading off an effort in the U.S. House to cut off funding for the military intervention.

The resolution would support a limited U.S. military role as part of the NATO-led effort to enforce a U.N resolution for one year. The U.N. resolution, passed March 20, authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi’s military and to enforce a no-fly zone over the country.

The Kerry/McCain resolution also spells out that one of the goals of the operation is to see Gadhafi’s exit from power:

(3) the goal of United States policy in Libya, as stated by the President, is to achieve the departure from power of Muammar Qaddafi and his family, including through the use of diplomatic and economic pressure, so that a peaceful transition can begin to an inclusive government that ensures freedom, opportunity, and justice for the people of Libya;

The resolution stipulates that U.S. ground forces will not be deployed in Libya and that the White House must provide regular reports on the mission to Congress. Read the text of the resolution below:

If the resolution passes, it would send a message to the restless House — where Republican leadership as well as some Democrats have been critical of U.S. involvement in the NATO mission — that cutting off money for the operation is not an option.

“The Senate has been silent for too long on U.S. military operations in Libya. It is time for the Senate to act. It is time to authorize the President’s use of force, whether he thinks he needs it or not. And it is time to send a message to our allies, to Gadhafi, and to his opponents in Libya who are fighting for their freedom that there is strong bipartisan support in the Senate, and among the American people, for staying the course in Libya until we succeed,” McCain said in a statement.

McCain, as well as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, objected to a White House report last week that argued it did not need congressional authorization for military action in Libya, as mandated by the War Powers Resolution, because the U.S. was not actually engaged in hostilities there.

“It just doesn’t pass the straight face test, in my view, that we’re not in the midst of hostilities,” Boehner said last week.

You can read about the details of the War Powers Resolution here. Several presidents have bypassed the requirement to seek authorization from Congress for long-term military action.

Kerry argued that the use of force to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi was the right thing to do and also sent a message to other dictators during the popular uprisings reshaping the Arab world this year that the United States won’t stand for slaughter of civilians.

“Are we willing to stand up for our values and protect our interests? Are we willing to support the legitimate aspirations of the people of Libya? And if not, who could trust us again. By supporting this resolution, we tell Arabs young and old that the United States is willing to make tough decisions and spend our tax dollars to help ensure your freedom. Our own security will be strengthened immeasurably if we can play midwife to these budding democracies,” Kerry said.

The resolution is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, including Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has not announced when debate and a vote on the resolution might occur.

Last Friday on the NewsHour, Reid said he didn’t immediately see a need for a special congressional authorization for Libya:

“You know, we did an authorization for Afghanistan. We did one for Iraq. But we have no troops on the ground there, and this thing’s going to be over before you know it anyway, so I think it’s not necessary,” Reid said.