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House sends a muddled message on Libya: no support, but funding untouched

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Some observers suggest that the bill felt like a halfway measure by cutting some, but not all, funding for US military participation in Libya. Others point to concerns felt by many – in Congress, at the Pentagon, and abroad – that a vote to cut funding would send the wrong message to US allies and even the forces of Libyan commander Muammar Qaddafi.

Why didn’t Congress cut funding for the Libyan conflict?

One explanation for the defeat, some congressional experts said, was that it may not have gone far enough. Those who wanted an unequivocal rejection of Mr. Obama’s unilateral launching of the US into the Libya hostilities, whether Republicans or Democrats, were unwilling to support what they considered a halfway measure.

The House bill would have cut off funding for US airstrikes while leaving untouched the purely supportive elements of US participation in the Libya mission: such things as intelligence operations, aerial refueling, and reconnaissance flights.

The vote was largely symbolic in any case, since few expected the Senate to go along, even if the House had approved the funding cut.

By Friday, US participation in the Libya war had passed the 100-day mark. That number is significant, because the House rebellion was sparked by what members say was Obama’s disregard for the Vietnam-war-era War Powers Act, which requires a president to seek congressional authorization for “hostilities” lasting over 60 days.

The White House last week issued an opinion saying that the US is largely playing a “supportive” role in the NATO campaign and that what the US is engaged in does not constitute “hostilities” – a view that further infuriated House members.

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