Kucinich Will Challenge Libya War Funds
Policy + Politics

Kucinich Will Challenge Libya War Funds

Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, stepped up his criticism of President Obama’s decision to join the air and sea assault on Libya, saying on Tuesday that he plans to offer an amendment to the next spending bill that would deny funding for the military operation. 

“The establishment of a no-fly zone by the U.S. and our allies, billed as an act to protect civilians in Libya, is an act of war,” Kucinich wrote in a letter to House colleagues.  “Now, the president is plunging the United States into yet another war we cannot afford.”

Kucinich told The Fiscal Times that “The way to best deal with it most immediately is through the appropriations process.” 

One of the most liberal members of the House and an outspoken anti-war Democrat, Kucinich said he was offering the amendment because the president lacked the constitutional authority to order the attacks and that  Obama’s action put extraordinary stress on the U.S. military and substantially added to the government’s costs. 

Kucinich is among a growing number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers criticizing the president for joining with allies to impose a no-fly zone over Libya – challenging his goals and the costs of the military offensive. “The Administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. Some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also complained that Obama acted too late, suggesting that military forces would have been more effective weeks ago.

The air-and-sea coalition attacks on Libyan leader Muammer al-Qaddafi’s loyalists, known as “Operation Odyssey Dawn,” could cost the U.S. between $500 million and $1 billion, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The Defense Department has not released a projected price tag for the Libya military offensive. Data compiled by Bloomberg News estimated that the U.S. spent at least $168 million on the first strikes in Libya. If the price tag hits several billion dollars, the Pentagon could request emergency funding from Congress to pay for it.

Defense spending is the largest part of the federal budget outside of Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs. With two other wars still being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s budget has been almost untouchable as a target for cuts. President Obama requested $553 billion in defense spending for ongoing operations in his 2012 budget, in line with estimated expenditures of $549 billion this year.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard McKeon, R-Calif., also expressed concern about “use of military force in the absence of clear political objectives for our country.” But he wasn’t as critical of Obama’s actions as others. A spokesperson for McKeon said that the congressman is skeptical about Kucinich’s amendment and would be reluctant to support it.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Maryland, who also sits on the house Armed Services Committee, said he agrees with Kucinich that Obama’s action represented a constitutional breach. “The United States does not have a king's army,” he said Monday. “President Obama's unilateral choice to use U.S. military force in Libya is an affront to our Constitution.” Bartlett’s spokesperson, Lisa Wright, said for now Bartlett would not commit support one way or another to Kucinich’s amendment.

Kucinich said he will be talking with members of Congress throughout the next few days to help gauge support for his amendment.

It’s uncertain if House leadership will allow the amendment to be offered in the next stopgap spending measure that must be approved by April 8. “It’s unclear and premature to speculate,” said Jennifer Hing, spokeswoman for the House Appropriations committee, chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

A spokesperson for the House Committee on Rules said the process for the next stopgap measure has not been established. The latest stopgap spending measure expires April 8.

Meanwhile, Kucinich is also using his criticism of the president in an appeal for campaign funds. Kucinich posted a video message on his campaign web site Monday in which he asks supporters for campaign contributions and charges that the Obama administration’s decision to intervene in Libya was “outside the Constitution of the United States.”

Related Links:
Kucinich Moves to Cut Funding in Libya (The Hill) 
Rep. Kucinich: Plans Amendment to Ban Funding for Libya Action (Wall Street Journal)
Costs of Libya Operation Already Piling Up (National Journal)