6-21-11 WASHINGTON — Two top US senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would retroactively support America's military role in Libya, amid a raging debate over whether President Barack Obama flouted the law by not getting prior congressional approval.
"I believe we will find a strong, bipartisan majority that is in favor of authorizing our current military operations in Libya and seeing this mission through to success," said Republican US Senator John McCain, one of the authors of the bill.
"That is a message that (Libyan President Moamer) Kadhafi needs to hear. It is a message that Khadafi's opponents, fighting to liberate their nation, need to hear," McCain told his fellow senators during floor debate in the Senate, as he urged a vote on the measure "as soon as possible."
The veteran Republican lawmaker admitted to harboring some reservations about how US military assets were used in support of the NATO military action, and said he would have much preferred it if Obama had received congressional sanction to use US military might in Libya.
But, said McCain, "at the end of the day, I believe the president did the right thing by intervening to stop a looming humanitarian disaster in Libya."
Meanwhile, his Democratic co-sponsor, Senator John Kerry, assured fellow lawmakers that the measure would not allow an unending US military role in Libya.
"The resolution is not a blank check for the president. Not at all," Kerry said.
"This resolution authorizes the limited use of American forces in a supporting role. It says specifically that the Senate does not support the use of ground troops in Libya," said Kerry, chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee.
"And it authorizes this limited use of American forces for a limited duration -- it would expire in a year."
Kerry and McCain introduced their bill amid a turbulent congressional debate over whether or not Obama was in compliance with the War Powers Act, a 1973 resolution requiring any US president to seek congressional approval before declaring war.
Obama has been accused by various US lawmakers, including many within his own Democratic party, of flouting the law when he lent US military support to a NATO military operation in Libya.
One incensed Democratic lawmaker in the House of Representatives has vowed to propose later this week an amendment to a defense bill banning any funds from being used to finance US operations in Libya, while another House Democrat said he would introduce a measure to cut off congressional funding for the $10 million per week Libya operation.
The White House insisted in a letter sent to Congress last week that the War Powers Act -- which has been largely ignored by past presidents -- does not apply to events in Libya because there are no US troops on the ground there.
The strange bedfellows nature of congressional alliances over the controversy also has seen some top Republicans, including McCain, come down on Obama's side over the use of US military assets in Libya.
Meanwhile, another top Republican senator on matters of defense and security, Lindsey Graham, derided the War Powers Act as "unconstitutional, not worth the paper it's written on."
"I think it's an infringement on the power of the commander-in-chief," he told NBC on Sunday, adding he would not back efforts to defund the operations.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner has also issued veiled threats about Congress tightening its purse strings over the Libya venture.