Heck tempers vote on Libya

U.S. Rep. Joe Heck was one of the earliest and most vocal critics of U.S. military involvement in Libya. He charged President Barack Obama bypassed Congress in signing up U.S. forces to carry out missile strikes in the North African nation in a developing bid by rebels to oust strongman Moammar Gadhafi

"I am greatly concerned about what is going on and I have serious reservations about what is going on in Libya," Heck said on March 23. "There is no clear-cut national security objective that has been clearly articulated."

Heck has continued to be critical of the Libyan mission. which also involves NATO countries. But when presented with an opportunity on Friday to send the strongest message to President Barack Obama by calling for an almost-immediate U.S. withdrawal from mission, he demurred.

The Nevada Republican voted against legislation by antiwar liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, that called for a U.S. pullout within 15 days.

Instead Heck voted for a more modest resolution that gives Obama two weeks to tell Congress details of "United States security interests and objectives” in Libya.

Heck voted against withdrawing from Libya because he thinks 15 days "is not enough time to give our allies a chance to adjust their operational strategy to continue operations over there," his spokesman Darren Littell said.

"This is with his 20 years of military experience," Littell said of Heck, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. "He was a military planner and all that stuff so he knows what he is talking about here."

The United States has surveillance and communications jamming tools that NATO does not. Losing those suddenly would force NATO to reconsider some of its strategies in Heck’s view, his aide said.

Kucinich’s resolution was pulled from the House floor earlier this week after House leaders sensed it was building support. The delay enabled Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to craft the alternative.

On Friday, Boehner’s resolution passed, 268-145, with strong GOP support. Kucinich failed, 148-265.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted against both of the resolutions, as did a number of other Democrats.

"While I do not believe NATO actions in Libya should be open-ended, I could not support the limits that either of today’s resolutions would have placed on the participation of U.S. forces,” Berkley said.

“As commander in chief, the president must have the flexibility to respond to threats at home and abroad and to oversee the participation of U.S. forces working as part of an international mission, such as the one now underway in Libya," she said.

Boehner told lawmakers today that if Obama fails to respond satisfactorily to the House within the two weeks, further action could be taken.

House sources said Heck is among lawmakers drafting a new bill that could force an eventual cutoff of Pentagon funding for the Libya mission if Republicans are not satisfied with the president’s response.

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