US Senate postpones vote on Libya conflict to focus on national debt

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Image: US Congress.

The US Senate has postponed voting on a resolution to authorize limited US military operations in Libya, after Republican politicians said they wanted to focus on the national debt.

The resolution would have authorized a supporting role in the Libya conflict for up to a year. It specifically prohibited the deployment of US ground forces, and the use of US resources in reconstruction efforts. The administration of President Barack Obama has argued that congressional authorization is not needed, but welcomes a statement of support from the legislature. Last month, several US congressmen filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, claiming its military operations in Libya are illegal because they did not have legislative approval.

Majority Leader Harry Reid withdrew the motion yesterday as senators returned to work the day after the Independence Day holiday. The Senate was initially scheduled to enjoy a one-week recess, but Reid shortened it to restart negotiations to raise the federal borrowing limit and avoid a default on the nation's $14 trillion debt.

A procedural vote to authorize military operations in Libya was scheduled for yesterday evening. Two Republicans raised their objections on the floor that afternoon, saying that if they had to skip their holiday recess, then they wanted to work on the debt crisis. Bob Corker of Tennessee claimed the House of Representatives previously rejecting a resolution to authorize US involvement in the Libya conflict meant Senate action was "totally irrelevant".

Democrats currently hold a majority in the 100-member Senate, but not the 60 votes needed to proceed to final votes.

Reid agreed that "the most important thing for us to focus on this week is the budget". Instead of the Libya resolution, the Senate will consider a non-binding resolution that urges the rich to "make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort".

Dianne Feinsten, a Democrat from California, is skeptical of the argument that the Senate cannot consider both issues simultaneously. Negotiations over the national debt have been taking place "behind the scenes", she said.

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