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Cole: Reassert Congress' Role, Block Libya Funding

July 7, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04) made the following remarks before the House approved his amendment to prohibit funding for military operations in Libya by a vote of 225-201. Cole offered the amendment to the FY 2012 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 2219).

"This amendment is quite simple. It prohibits any funds in this bill from being used to conduct military operations in Libya, a place where I believe we are engaged in an illegal and certainly unauthorized conflict. Mr. Chairman, I feel a little bit today like a lawyer with two very unpopular clients. One of them is Libya, and the other one is the United States Congress. But in this case, each one of them has an important point to make. With respect to Libya, let me make it clear: I don't believe anybody in this chamber supports Mr. Gadhafi , supports that regime, or wishes it well in any way. But Libya did not attack the United States of America. Libya did not attack any member of NATO. Libya has not allowed al Qaeda to operate with impunity out of its territory. A number of years ago, Libya turned over nuclear material to the United States. Quite simply, however much we detest Mr. Gadhafi and his regime, we have no reason to be at war or conducting military operations in Libya, and, frankly, if we allow that situation to continue, I think we have to ask ourselves: Are we willing to attack any nation, any time we disagree with a regime we don't like simply because the president chooses to do so?

"More troubling than the attack on Libya in my view is the circumvention of this body, the United States Congress, and its war-making authority under both the Constitution and the War Powers Act. Only Congress has the ability to authorize and fund military operations. The administration consulted with NATO; the administration consulted with the United Nations; the administration consulted with the Arab League. It never in any real sense consulted with the Congress of the United States before beginning military operations in Libya. Two weeks ago, this House made clear its opposition to the Libyan venture by refusing to authorize even the limited use of force. We should build on that by removing funding today.

"Some may question whether or not this amendment is germane on this particular piece of legislation. Frankly, Mr. Chairman, I worked very carefully with the Parliamentarian on the language and more importantly, it's modeled after the famous Boland amendment of 1983 to the Defense approps bill that year that was approved by this body 411- 0. Some may argue -- like the administration -- that we really aren't engaged in hostilities in Libya. That's simply laughable. Attorneys at both the Department of the Defense and the Department of Justice of this administration believe that our activity requires congressional authorization under the War Powers Act. We've flown over 1000 combat sorties over Libyan airspace. We've launched 228 Tomahawk missiles. We've launched over 100 Predators. We're refueling and supporting NATO aircraft that are engaged in attacking Libya every single day. If that's not war on our side of the situation, I can assure you the people on the other side consider it war and certainly consider it hostile. The reality is, we should not be engaged in military action of this level unless it's authorized and funded by the Congress of the United States.

"In Libya, the president has quite simply overreached. However, in Congress, we've so far allowed him to do so. We've not authorized this activity; there's not a single line in the Defense authorization bill or in this bill which actually funds this activity; and we ought to explicitly prohibit the president from concluding.

"I think, like many in this body, I think this is a very important moment for the Congress and for the United States. Whether or not we claim war-making authority and exercise our power under the Constitution is really the issue here. You could be for the Libyan venture and still be able to support this legislation, or you could be against it. At the end of the day, it's extraordinarily important that we stop the erosion of the war-making authority and responsibility of the Congress of the United States, that we end this ill-advised adventure in Libya, and that we reassert the rightful place of this institution in conducting war, authorizing it and funding it.

"And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time."