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On Libya, House Is Choosing a Path

Bill Clark/Roll Call

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Speaker John Boehner is setting up the second showdown with the White House over Libya in less than a month.

The Ohio Republican bowed to his Conference's demands Wednesday, scrapping a resolution that would curtail the military operation in Libya and instead putting forward a strict funding limitation proposal to rebuke the Obama administration for pursuing military involvement in Libya without seeking the endorsement of Congress. The proposal, several GOP Members said, was more in line with where the Conference stands ideologically on the issue.

"It sounds like most Members of the Conference were getting their heads around this ... option, which is really the House's role as controlling the power of the purse with what we'd be agreeable to funding and what we wouldn't be," Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told reporters after an hourlong impromptu Conference meeting on Libya.

The topic of Libya was expected to dominate the floor Wednesday, but action was postponed following the meeting. Instead, the chamber might vote on two proposals Friday: one that limits funding and a separate resolution that mirrors the proposal by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would give Congressional approval to continue U.S. military involvement in Libya for one year.

"You can do resolutions until you're blue in the face," said Rooney, who has been an outspoken critic of Obama's handling of Libya. "If they go to the Senate and they don't go anywhere, what are you going to do next week?"

It is unclear how much support either proposal has in the House, even though GOP aides predicted the Kerry-McCain measure would fail. While Republicans have kicked up their criticism of the Libyan effort, only some Democrats have been as outspoken, and the Caucus has not yet met to discuss their position. Progressive Caucus Chairman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said Tuesday his left-leaning colleagues were splintered on the issue, and he acknowledged their votes could be split between the two proposals ready for Friday.

"You could say, if you're serious about it, put one down and say, 'Look, this is hostilities. There's no doubt the president has the duty and obligation to consult with us under the War Powers Act. Bam,'" Ellison said. Boehner "clearly has created a fudge factor."

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