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Roll Call

Reid Expects Vote on Resolution Approving Libya Operation

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A bipartisan group of Senators pressed ahead Tuesday with a resolution that would grant Congressional approval to the military action that President Barack Obama ordered in Libya this year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated to reporters that a vote would happen, but not before the chamber’s scheduled adjournment for its Memorial Day recess.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, one of the resolution’s principal authors, said he expected it to pass, although the Massachusetts Democrat emphasized that he does not believe approval is necessary to satisfy the War Powers Act.

“I expect it to pass, but I don’t know what the parliamentary situation will be,” Kerry said. “It is not essential, because I don’t believe personally — I think it is not applicable to the War Powers Act.”

Under the 1973 law, the president is generally supposed to end military force within 60 days unless lawmakers authorize further action. The Libya operation began March 21, and Obama sent Congressional leaders a letter Friday, the day of the deadline, to request their support for the United States’ continued work with the NATO operation.

There are at least a few political divisions in the Senate on the War Powers Act issue, as illustrated by Foreign Relations ranking member Dick Lugar’s opposition to military action in Libya and his strongly worded letter to Obama regarding his failure to obtain Congressional approval before sending U.S. forces to enforce a no-fly zone over the North African nation.

The Indiana Republican, running for re-election in 2012 and facing a difficult primary contest, was among Obama’s staunchest allies on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, working closely with Kerry to overcome GOP opposition and achieve ratification late last year. Lugar declined to comment on Kerry’s bipartisan resolution, saying he had yet to read it.

“The president needs to specify whether he’s going to move in accordance with the War Powers Act, whether he’s going to ask for a declaration of war or whether he’s going to provide a budget for the current situation,” Lugar said. “In other words, by what authority is he moving in Libya?”

Joining Kerry as co-authors of the Libya resolution were Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.); Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.); Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.); and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Although supporters expect the resolution to pass — McCain said all that remains is to work out with Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) exactly when to bring it up — some Senators remain noncommittal on whether they will vote for it.

“It’s not what I’m looking for in a resolution, but I haven’t looked at it in depth yet,” Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) said.

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