WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is splitting with President Obama over the need for Congress to authorize military action in Libya--though he backs Obama's order to send in air strikes. Congress needs to have a voice in the decision is Durbin's point.
The White House is arguing that the nation is not involved in a war--there is no ongoing hostile action--and therefore there is no need to invoke the War Powers Act and call for a Congressional vote.
Republicans and Democrats are disagreeing with the White House position--as they join in demanding congressional approval. The White House has been trying to address congressional critics, sending to Capitol Hill on Wednesday a summary report on U.S. activities in Libya and putting out a briefing by White House counsel Bob Bauer.
Durbin, from the Senate floor on Thursday said, "I believe that what we are engaged in with Libya is a matter that should come under the War Powers Resolution" and called for a vote. Durbin would vote to authorize the force. Such a vote would "give the president clear authorize and will also establish the clear authority of Congress in this particular situation. Let me add quickly, I think the president was right in what he did initially."
Durbin is teaming with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to push for a resolution that would give Obama the authority to continue hostilities in Libya as long at no ground troops would be used, there woule a "time certain to end--by the end of 2011--unless Congress votes again whether or not to continue.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday, "You know, the White House says there are no hostilities taking place. Yet we've got drone attacks under way; we're spending $10 million a day; we're part of an effort to drop bombs on Gadhafi's compounds. I don't -- I just -- it just doesn't pass the straight face test, in my view, that we're not in the midst of hostilities.
"It's been four weeks since the president has talked to the American people about this mission, and I think it's time for the president to outline to the American people why we are there, what the mission is and what our goals are and how do we exit this."