House GOP Not Persuaded By John McCain’s Effort To Authorize Libyan Involvement

It looks like House Republicans will be taking a much different path in the debate over the war in Libya than the one being called for by Senator John McCain and some other Senate Republicans:

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) isn’t swayed by movement in the Senate to back U.S. military involvement in Libya, saying Wednesday that the House is leaning against authorizing President Barack Obama’s actions in the North African dictatorship.

In terms of authorizing force, Boehner said Wednesday: “I don’t think that’s where the House is.”

House GOP leadership unveiled two Libya resolutions Tuesday night: one would end U.S. involvement and the other would authorize the use of force. The latter option is similar to a resolution introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who want to give the White House the green light on limited military action.

McCain has recently accused Republicans who oppose the Libyan effort of embracing an “isolationist” policy. But Boehner dismissed the notion of a rift in the GOP, saying the only point of difference between House Republicans and hawkish senators such as McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is on whether to authorize action in Libya.

“If you’ve listened to what Sen. McCain has said and Sen. Graham, two friends of mine, and you’ve listened to what I and some others have said, we’ve said almost the exact same thing, except they’re pushing for an authorization in Libya, and I don’t think that’s where the House is,” Boehner said.

He pinned the blame on President Barack Obama, saying he did not clearly explain U.S. objectives to Congress or the public.

Certainly there is something political going on here. After all, everything in Washington is political in some sense. However, I think it’s clear that there is a real debate going on among Republicans over the proper focus of foreign policy that isn’t very much different than the divisions that developed during the Clinton Administration over American involvement in the various Balkan conflicts. While many Republicans, especially in the Senate, supported President Clinton’s decision to intervene on the side of the Kosovars, there were others who most emphatically didn’t such as former California Congressman Tom Campbell. Additionally, it’s worth remembering that George W. Bush campaigned in 1999 and 2000 on the idea of not getting the U.S. involved in “nation building,” which was a direct reference to the Clinton era missions in Somalia and the Balkans neither of which ever had widespread public support. If it hadn’t been for the 9/11 attacks, it’s entirely possible that Bush would’ve followed through on this idea, and that American foreign policy in the 2000s would have been very different.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.