President Obama steered the United States into an undeclared war with Libya.
The president did not respect the Constitution, which requires that wars be declared by Congress.
And, now, two months into the fight, the president is not respecting the War Powers Act, which requires clear consultation with Congress.
You would think that would get Republican leaders in the House angry. After all, they seem to be mad about everything Obama does.
But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Friday engineered a power play that prevented congressional checking and balancing of the president on his Libya mission.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, had proposed legislation that would force the president to end the mission within 15 days. And a lot of anti-war Democrats and old-school, anti-interventionist Republicans (as well as some new-school "Obama-can-do-no-right" partisans) were sympathetic — maybe even enough to pass a measure with teeth in it.
So Boehner stepped in with a watered-down resolution — repeating last week’s House charge to keep ground troops out of the conflict — that allowed members to poke at Obama but that does not begin to impose a serious congressional check and balance on executive branch warmaking.
The debate was intense, and the mood uncertain.
Boehner urged Republicans to oppose the Kucinich resolution. But some key Republicans announced they were backing the Ohio Democrat’s resolution because it was the one "with teeth in it."
Here is the message Kucinich dispatched to his colleagues:
"You will be asked to vote on two resolutions; H.Con.Res. 51 and a resolution offered by Speaker Boehner, H.Res. 292, both of which address U.S. military involvement in Libya. While H.Res. 292 is not at odds with H.Con.Res.51, it is not a substitute for my resolution and does not have anywhere near the same impact. There are clear differences and it is imperative that members clearly understand them because a consequence of voting for one (H.Res. 292) and not the other (H.Con.Res. 51) is an endorsement of the illegal and unconstitutional action that has been taken by the White House.
"How do we deal with the failure of a President to adhere to the Constitution? If Congress does not challenge a President’s dismissal of the clear meaning of Article 1, Section 8, then we will have tacitly endorsed a President’s violation of the Constitution and guaranteed the perpetuation of future constitutional transgressions. A mild rebuke alone of the usurpation of a constitutionally mandated war power is insufficient to defend the Constitution.
"Though many of us may want to support our President, the President has ignored Congress’ assertion of the war power by failing to obey the War Powers Resolution. Congress fought for this power in 1973 when it passed the War Powers Resolution over a presidential veto. My resolution requires the President to abide by the statutory obligations of the War Powers Resolution by ending U.S. involvement in military operations in Libya.
"Our loyalty to NATO and to our President, regardless of party affiliation, does not trump our loyalty to the United States Constitution."
When all was said and done, Boehner’s toothless proposal was endorsed by the House on a 268-145 vote. Voting to scold the president for failing to seek congressional authority for the Libya mission under the War Powers Act and to ask for more information about the scope and character of the mission were 223 Republicans and 45 Democrats. Opposing the measure were 135 Democrats and 10 Republicans.
On the meaningful Kucinich resolution, 148 members voted for it while 265 voted to block it.
The breakdown here is significant. Of the 148 votes for checking and balancing the president, 61 came from Democrats and 87 from Republicans. Voting against checks and balances were 144 Republicans and 121 Democrats.
Those are frustrating numbers because of what they tell us about party loyalty trumping respect for the Constitution.
If all House Democrats had joined the 87 Republicans, Kucinich’s resolution would easily have passed.
Similarly, if House Republicans had cast a unified vote to check and balance the Obama White House, the Kucinich resolution would have passed by an overwhelming margin.
As it is, neither Obama’s party nor Boehner’s party stepped up to defend the Constitution.
The only good news is that 147 members of the House answered Kucinich’s higher call to obey their oaths to obey the dictates of the Constitutionand stood with him in saying it is time to end this undeclared war.