Sergey Ponomarev  /  AP
A street vendor talks to customer in a street market in the rebel-held Benghazi, Libya on Thursday.
updated 7/7/2011 4:49:50 PM ET 2011-07-07T20:49:50

The House on Thursday turned back an effort to prohibit funds for the U.S. military operation against Libya, a win for President Barack Obama in the ongoing constitutional showdown with Congress over war powers.

The vote was 229-199 against the measure that would have barred funds for U.S. participation in the NATO-led mission against Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Lawmakers argue that Obama violated the 1973 War Powers Resolution that requires a president to seek congressional approval within 60 days of the first military strikes, a move the commander in chief did not make. Instead, Obama informed Congress last month that such assent was unnecessary because the limited U.S. role does not rise to full-blown hostilities.

Story: Senate postpones Libya vote amid budget dispute
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Incensed House Republicans and Democrats voted overwhelmingly last month to deny Obama the authority to continue the mission, a largely symbolic vote that was still a rebuke to the president. But they stopped short of cutting off funds for the operation, muddling the message from the House.

The signal from the House Thursday also was less clear as lawmakers voted for a measure barring the Pentagon from providing "military equipment, training or advice or other support for military activities," to an outside group, such as rebel forces, for military action in or against Libya. The vote was 225-201.

The intent of the measure is to prohibit aid to the rebels such as weapons and assistance to the Transitional National Council including operational planning. The broad effort also would target contractors in Libya.

"Congress has allowed the president to overreach in Libya," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., sponsor of the amendment. "We should not be engaged in military action of this level unless it is authorized and funded by Congress."

The votes Thursday ratcheted up the pressure on the administration as Libya remained a stalemate between Gadhafi and rebel forces, and war-weary NATO allies signaled their patience was wearing thin. Italy announced that it was reducing its participation in NATO's campaign by removing an aircraft carrier from the region and pulling thousands of troops home.

Calling the conflict "illegal and unauthorized," Cole said Libya "did not attack us, did not attack NATO ... quite simply, however much we detest Mr. Gadhafi and his regime, we have no reason to be at war."

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., a co-sponsor of the failed measure, said the House had an "opportunity to stop this unconstitutional war against Libya."

Opponents, such as Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., argued that the United States should be allowed to continue the mission along with its NATO allies. He reminded Republicans that former President Ronald Reagan had challenged Gadhafi, and the U.S. should finish the job.

The House considered the amendments as part of a $649 billion defense spending bill that wouldn't go into effect until Oct. 1. The defense bill includes no funds for the Libyan operation — the Pentagon has said it could cover the expense with existing funds — but the measures would effectively bar funds for the mission.

Last month, the White House put the cost of U.S. military operations in Libya at about $715 million, with the total increasing to $1.1 billion by early September.

Since NATO took command of the Libya operation in early April, the U.S. role has largely been limited to support efforts such as intelligence, surveillance and electronic warfare. The U.S. has launched airstrikes and drone attacks, flying more than 3,400 sorties.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Libya conflict deadlocked, Egypt simmers

  1. Closed captioning of: Libya conflict deadlocked, Egypt simmers

    >>> as the senate prepares to debate a resolution on libya , gadhafi 's government says it's been talking to the rebels to claim a peace deal. foreign correspondent richard engel is in egypt, the latest of everything going on in the middle east from libya to the renewed upheaval in syria. let's start with libya . there's been two reports out there. we heard from the gadhafi side about a peace deal. we heard from the rebellion said, gadhafi , he can stay in the country if he leaves power. what's the truth going on in the middle?

    >> reporter: the truth is that there are no real serious negotiations between the two sides. these are mostly reports that have been in the media and denials by the government or denials by the rebels. the rebels at one stage said gadhafi could stay in the country if he leaves power. then the government said today that gadhafi has no intention of ever leaving power. so the reality is there's no concrete dialogue here. it is still a conflict and it is still a deadlock.

    >> you're in cairo. i do want to go there. there's more protests due to a court ruling . there's speculation that the elections could get postponed beyond september. what can you tell us about all that?

    >> reporter: there's still a lot of political chaos here. many egyptians are worried that there has not been enough time to organize the elections to get the political parties ready. i spoke with members of the young people , that you saw in tahrir square. they feel the energy and the revolution that they believe is still going on in this country is being hijacked by two groups, by the military and by the muslim brotherhood . they are worried that if elections were to take place right now, those two groups, the military and members of the former regime and the muslim brotherhood would be the biggest benefactor. what we're hearing now, there was a reuters report to that effect this morning, the military is considering delaying the elections which are supposed to take place at the end of the year, although no definitive decision has yet to take place on that.

    >> if the elections are delayed, that's thought to be helpful to the more secular political activist , correct?

    >> reporter: it's hard to know. the secular political activist certainly think it could be helpful to them. it's really a debate about the constitution and the order in which the constitution is written. as it stands right now, there are supposed to be elections and after the elections, the people who get elected are going to form committees and write the constitution. secular activists worry if the elections take place too soon, that the people that will be elected are groups like the muslim brotherhood and they will write a more religious constitution. they would like to see the constitution written first by committees of experts and then to have the elections take place at a later date. it's really about the mood right now. if the current climate favors islamic candidates who will write a morris lammic constitution.

    >> richard engel in cairo. thank you very much, sir.


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