WASHINGTON — Top Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed Monday on a resolution backing limited U.S. involvement in the NATO-led military campaign against Libya, days after the expiration of the legal deadline for President Barack Obama to seek full-blown congressional authorization.
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, introduced the non-binding resolution along with five other Republicans and Democrats.
The measure supports the limited use of military force and concurs with Obama that the stated goal of U.S. policy "is to achieve the departure from power of Moammar Gadhafi and his family, including through the use of non-military means, so that a peaceful transition can begin to an inclusive government that ensures freedom, opportunity and justice for the people of Libya."
The resolution calls on Obama to submit to Congress a description of U.S. policy objectives in Libya – during and after Gadhafi's tenure – and to consult with Congress regarding U.S. operations in Libya.
Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973 a president can only send troops into combat for 60 days without congressional approval. That deadline passed on Friday, with little pressure from Congress. The frustration and anger among many lawmakers shortly after the U.S. launched air strikes in support of a "no-fly zone" in March have largely dissipated as the American military role has diminished.
On Monday, France and Britain pledged to deploy attack helicopters to help the rebels amid their standoff with Gadhafi's forces.
In a letter to congressional leaders on Friday, Obama said he would welcome a resolution.
"While we are no longer in the lead, U.S. support for the NATO-based coalition remains crucial to assuring the success of international efforts to protect civilians from the actions of the Gadhafi regime," Obama wrote. "Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment to this remarkable international effort. Such a resolution is also important in the context of our constitutional framework, as it would demonstrate a unity of purpose among the political branches on this important national security matter."
McCain, in a statement, said he supports Obama's decision to commit U.S. forces and he hopes the resolution attracts widespread bipartisan backing. Kerry said the country is "on the strongest footing when the president and Congress speak with one voice on foreign policy matters."
Also backing the resolution were Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
It was unclear when the Senate would vote on the resolution.
Separately, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar of Indiana, sent a letter to Obama complaining about the "administration's failure to recognize the role of the Congress in matters relating to U.S. involvement in Libya's civil war."
Lugar argued that the administration's inability to engage with Congress "has left the American people without a clear understanding of the U.S. interests at stake in Libya and how they relate to the other important challenges we currently face as a country. Nor do the American people understand what costs they will be asked to bear in connection with our Libya operations, and what other priorities will have to be sacrificed to support these operations."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is pushing for a vote to pull U.S. forces out of the Libya operation.