House resolutions on Libya send conflicting messages

WASHINGTON -- The House last week voted against authorizing continued U.S. military involvement in Libya, but also refused to pull funding for the mission that began three months ago.

The seemingly contradictory votes on two separate resolutions -- one to authorize the mission and a second to restrict funding -- leave President Barack Obama free to continue U.S. participation in the NATO-led mission against Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Still, the White House expressed disappointment with the votes.

"We think now is not the time to send the kind of mixed message that it sends when we are working with our allies," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "The writing is on the wall for Colonel Gadhafi, and now is not the time to let up."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, scheduled the votes out of growing frustration with Obama's refusal to seek congressional authorization as required under the War Powers Resolution.

Obama contends that consultation is not required because the airstrikes and drone attacks do not amount to a "conflict" under the law.

Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., disputed Obama's claim, saying he could not support the president's continued involvement in an "illegal conflict."

"What is so hard, Mr. President, about coming to the House and consulting with the Congress?" Griffin asked.

Some Democrats accused Republicans of playing politics with national security.

"You are trifling and toying with national security," said Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif. "Our commitments to NATO and the humanitarian crisis in Libya are too important to be exploited for cynical political purposes."

The House voted 295-123 against the resolution that would have given Obama authority to continue the operations.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted for the resolution. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., voted against it.

The House then voted 238-180 against a resolution to strictly limit participation in Libya to a supporting role, barring direct military participation in drone attacks and airstrikes.

Berkley and Heck opposed the resolution.

Senate considers Obama 'czars'

The Senate last week voted 51-47 against a measure to stop paying White House "policy czars."

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., proposed pulling the funds for high-powered White House policy advisers who have been hired without going through the Senate confirmation process.

"My amendment would not remove the president's ability to have advisory staff," Vitter said, but "keeps the focus on the intended targets and the real abuses -- czars created to circumvent the scrutiny of the Senate."

Obama had come under intense criticism from Republicans during his first year in office after hiring a number of advisers -- including climate, health care and pay czars -- with powers that rivaled some Cabinet members'.

Vitter brought the issue up as an amendment to a bill under debate in the Senate that would streamline the confirmation process.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted for the Vitter amendment. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted against it.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at or 202-783-1760.