WASHINGTON -- Challenging presidential power, a defiant U.S. House voted overwhelmingly Friday to deny President Obama the authority to wage war against Libya. But Republicans fell short in an effort to actually cut off funds for the operation in a constitutional showdown reflecting both political differences and unease over American involvement.
In a repudiation of the military's commander in chief, House members rejected a measure to authorize the Libya mission for a year.
The vote was 295-123 with 70 Democrats abandoning the president just one day after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had made an unusual appeal to rank-and-file members.
Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Hamburg, voted in support of the resolution authorizing the Libyan mission. Reps. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, and Tom Reed, R-Corning, voted against it. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, did not vote.
A Senate committee is to consider the same resolution next Tuesday and is expected to support it, raising the prospect of conflicting messages from Congress.
Meanwhile, the effort to cut off money was defeated, 238-180.
Slaughter and Reed both voted to cut funding for the conflict while Hochul voted against the measure. Higgins did not vote.
Friday's votes showed lawmakers' concerns about an open-ended U.S. commitment to a civil war between Moammar Gadhafi and rebel forces looking to oust him -- as well as growing weariness among Americans with drawn-out conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition, the resounding number rejecting the authority resolution was a clear sign of anger toward the president for failing to seek congressional consent for the operation within 60 days, as stated in the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Republicans and Democrats argued that an arrogant Obama had run roughshod over the Constitution, ignoring the authority of the legislative branch that the founding fathers had insisted has the power to declare war.
While Republican as well as Democratic presidents have often ignored the War Powers Resolution, a frustrated House voted earlier this month to rebuke Obama for failing to provide a "compelling rationale" for the Libyan mission and for launching U.S. military forces without congressional approval. They requested a report to Congress on the operation.
Obama further incensed lawmakers last week when he said he didn't need authorization because the operation did not rise to full-blown hostilities, a decision he reached by overruling some of his advisers.
"I support the removal of the Libyan regime. I support the president's authority as commander in chief, but when the president chooses to challenge the powers of the Congress I, as speaker of the House, will defend the constitutional authority of the legislature," said Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.
Added Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla.: "The last thing that we want as Americans is for some president, whether it's this president or some future president, to be able to pick fights around the world without any debate from another branch of government."
The rejected money-cutoff bill, sponsored by Rooney, would have barred drone attacks and airstrikes but allowed the United States to continue actions in support of the NATO-led operation such as intelligence gathering, refueling and reconnaissance.
In Benghazi, Libya, rebel spokesman Jalal el-Gallal, said he didn't know why the House voted against the authorization measure.
"America is the beating heart of democracy and should support the birth of a democracy in our time," he said. "I believe the American people will put the pressure on the government to change its mind."