The House of Representatives sent a mixed message Thursday on U.S. involvement in Libya, voting to block direct American support for rebel forces but refusing to cut off funding to the NATO mission.
It was the second instance in recent weeks in which the Republican-dominated House voiced disapproval of President Obama’s policies in Libya but stopped short of voting to withdraw all funds. Lawmakers refused last month to authorize U.S. military involvement in the conflict, but rejected a bill aimed at cutting off money for drone strikes in Libya.
Thursday’s votes came on proposed amendments to a defense spending bill making its way through the House. The bill is unlikely to become law, as the Senate has yet to pass its version, which then would have to be reconciled with the House bill.
Nonetheless, the votes were another indication of the dissatisfaction on Capitol Hill with the president’s decision to commit troops to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led mission in Libya without first consulting Congress.
Forty-eight Democrats joined 177 Republicans in voting for the measure on aid to rebels, which was presented by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
The amendment prevents the use of funds to “furnish military equipment, military training or advice, or other support for military activities” to groups such as the Libyan rebels.
The second amendment, offered by Reps. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.), would have more explicitly blocked deployment of U.S. forces to participate in the NATO mission. That amendment failed by a vote of 229 to 199. Still, a majority of Republicans voted for it, while most Democrats opposed it.
The House defeated two similar amendments later, but approved a fifth to prevent an expanded U.S. military effort in Libya.
Cole’s amendment was modeled after the 1980s-era Boland Amendment, a set of measures aimed at limiting U.S. assistance to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels. Cole and his aides said the measure would bar many U.S. activities in Libya.
“In Libya, the president has quite simply overreached,” Cole said on the House floor, adding it is important to “end this ill-advised adventure in Libya.”
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution by Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to authorize the limited use of force in Libya. The resolution would require congressional authorization for the use of force and would bar deployment of ground troops.
The measure was supposed to be taken up by the full Senate this week, but the vote was postponed.
McCain called Thursday’s House action “deeply disturbing” and scolded Republicans for supporting the Cole amendment.
“I am saddened by the abandonment of America’s traditional support for those struggling for freedom and democracy, which has been a hallmark of our Republican Party for decades,” he said.