Published June 01, 2011
Congress and Obama on Collision Course Over Libya War
"NATO and partners have just decided to extend our mission for Libya for another 90 days. This decision sends a clear message to the Qaddafi regime: We are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya."
-- NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a statement.
House Republican aides tell Power Play that a vote scheduled for today on Ohio Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s bill that would force the U.S. to withdraw from the Libyan civil war was yanked from the schedule only after it became clear that it might succeed.
“[Republican leaders] hadn’t seen much of a threat from [the Kucinich bill]. He’s kind of this marginal figure and having his resolution go down narrowly would be no big deal and might even send a message to the administration,” said one of the Republican aides. “But once they saw that there was substantial support, they were like, ‘Whoa.’”
While it’s hardly a sure thing that Kucinich’s bill would have drawn a majority, the broad-based, bipartisan support for the measure prompted House leaders to set the measure aside while figuring out how to proceed in dealing with President Obama on the ongoing Libya war.
So far, the administration has succeeded in flouting Congressional authority on the war. Past presidents have all been dismissive of the War Powers Resolution and members of Congress have even derided the legislation as an unconstitutional abridgement of their exclusive power to declare war, but both branches have abided by the law just the same since it was passed over Richard Nixon’s veto in 1973. It has been the imperfect agreement by which presidents and lawmakers have navigated the minor conflicts of the Cold War (Grenada, etc.), unipolar transitional periods (Bosnia, Somalia, etc.) and the current conflicts with militant Islamists.
But Obama has said that the resolution does not apply to the war because the U.S. commitment was too small to merit any kind of Congressional authorization. The War Powers Resolution says that Obama, having failed to obtain congressional authorization within the first 60 days of the conflict, is now in a 30-day period in which he must disengage U.S. forces. He’s got just a little more than two weeks before he is in clear violation.
Obama doesn’t want to bow to any congressional limitations on his power to make war. If he did, it could imperil his covert campaign in Pakistan and other smaller-bore operations, like drone strikes in Yemen etc. He may intend to break the back of the resolution, or to simply force Congress to fold on the issue, forever rendering it moot. Like his move to blow up the public financing of elections, Obama may be interested in making some history and expanding his powers.
The announcement of a 90-day extension of the NATO commitment to the stalemated civil war that has left Libya split along deep, centuries old tribal lines suggests that Obama is suiting up for a constitutional showdown in defense of the U.N.-backed mission.
Just because Republicans pulled back the Kucinich measure doesn’t mean that they are not concerned about where the Libya train is heading. Note well that Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, part of the Senate leadership, was among the signatories to the letter notifying Obama that his 60-day grace period to wage unauthorized war had elapsed.
But the question is how will they confront Obama over this without A) seeming to undercut American forces in the field and B) setting a defensible new precedent for limiting presidential war powers. This is a generational question that Republican leaders don’t want to get wrong.
No Need For AC at Obama-House GOP Meeting
“Hopefully this vote will illustrate to Treasury Secretary Geithner and the 110+ House Democrats who’ve demanded a clean increase that this approach is not acceptable or responsible.”
-- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
President Obama will talk this morning to the Republican members of the House as the nation watches Washington in hopes that a fiscal train wreck can be averted.
But all public signs from both sides suggest it’s full speed ahead toward a summer of partisan rancor.
On Tuesday night, Republicans demonstrated there was no path forward for the president’s initial request of an increase to the nation’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit without preconditions for spending cuts. Half of House Democrats defected on a test vote put forward by Republicans on a law that would have met Obama’s demand.
It was a defeat for the president and further proof that Democrats have to first agree amongst themselves on a debt plan before the issue can be resolved.
Obama, meanwhile, is flexing his own muscle. As Democrats abandon ship, the administration is using its megaphone to denounce Republicans as risking a default on federal obligations and an international economic crisis.
Even the president’s selection of a replacement for outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is a demonstration of the sharpening partisan divide in Washington. Obama tapped John Bryson, a former California utility executive who is more famous for helping to found the environmentalist group the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Obama tapping an environmental activist and ardent supporter of a crackdown on carbon emissions to head an agency that is supposed to facilitate business growth does not suggest the president is in much of a conciliatory mood.
Vice President Joe Biden recently helped explain the administration’s return to a more confrontational approach. The president’s team believes that the Republican embrace of a Medicare overhaul and the killing of Usama bin Laden have given the president the juice to roll over the GOP next year.
That new post-killing, Mediscare swagger, may prompt Obama to walk a little closer to the edge of an August 2 deadline for raising the debt limit or facing a partial government shutdown.
For their part, Republicans aren’t expecting much out of today’s White House meeting.
“He’s going to get a fair hearing,” said one senior House aide. “But I frankly don’t expect much more than a lecture on what he believes our obligations are.”
Weiner Woes Deepen
“I’m going to have to ask that we follow some rules here. One of them is going to be you ask questions and I’ll do the answers. That seem reasonable? Would that be reasonable, you the questions, I do the answers, and this jackass interrupts me? How about that as the rule of the game? Let me just give the answer.”
Power Play hates to fault lawmakers for poor communications efforts. After all, public officials should be judged on how they execute their duties, not how well they schmooze the press.
But in the case of Democratic New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, one must cry out: What is that guy thinking?
Weiner held a press conference on Tuesday to address questions about a picture of a man’s tumescent, underwear-clad groin that had been posted on his Twitter account and directed at a co-ed from Washington State.
Well, actually, he held the press conference to avoid the questions. In a snappish, sometimes surreal series of exchanges, the unfortunately named lawmaker bickered with the press and refused to answer the two big questions surrounding the scandal: Is it his crotch? Was this a “hack,” as his office first said, or a “prank” as the office later described the incident?
Establishment press outlets, even those which were at first credulous about Weiner’s claim that he was the victim, have thrown up their well-manicured hands in bewilderment at Weiner’s stonewalling.
If he really wanted to move past the issue and talk about the debt ceiling and Clarence Thomas, as he has said, why wouldn’t he issue a brief, flat denial about the provenance of the photo and say one time whether this was a criminal, hostile hacking or a non-criminal prank?
Even assuming the scenario in the light most favorable to the congressman, this has been a total botch. Summoning reporters, stonewalling them and then barking at legitimate questions is not a great credibility builder.
The speculation that Weiner would run for New York mayor has now been squashed, and despite his insistence about directing his own avenues of discussion, it looks likely that Weiner will be forced to keep addressing the issue.
Texas Dems Try to Thwart Perry Run
"If you want to live in a high-tax state, or state that has a lot of big, costly government programs, than you're free to stay there. Or, you can move back to a state like Texas."
-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry talking to reporters about an upcoming special session of the state’s legislature.
Texas Democrats succeeded in filibustering a budget-slashing spending plan from Gov. Rick Perry and his fellow Republicans, forcing the potential 2012 presidential contender to delay any announcement for at least another week.
But Perry may be able to turn the move in his favor. He has called the legislature back into special session, which means different procedures that preclude the tiny Democratic minority in the state Senate from blocking the plan which cuts $15 billion over two years, including $4 billion in school cuts staunchly opposed by state government worker unions.
Perry has taken some knocks from fiscal conservatives in the past for not reining in spending sufficiently. Taking a hard line on a big budget fight is helping Perry, a former Democrat who has become a conservative darling, claim some of the fiscal hawk status so coveted currently in the GOP.
Perry has also taken advantage of the budget crisis to add a proposal overhauling the state’s Medicare program to his call for this special session. Perry has pushed for major changes in the way states obtain and spend Medicare funds and may be able to now move forward. You may not have noticed but it’s kind of a hot topic with Republicans right now.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman will call on Perry Thursday as part of an ongoing effort to establish some conservative bona fides (he penned a Wall Street op-ed heavy on Reagan references and downplayed his personal relationship with his former boss, President Obama in a new interview at Real Clear Politics). While he’s in Austin, Huntsman will also no doubt be trying to get a read on Perry’s presidential aspirations.
Those wondering about Perry’s leaning need only look at the press conference he held to announce the special session. That guy was feeling it.
Palinpalooza Rolls On
“I don't think I owe anything to the mainstream media. I think it would be a mistake for me to become some kind of conventional politician and doing things the way that it's always been done with the media in terms of relationship with them, telling them to come along and 'we'll orchestrate this, we'll script this and we'll basically write a story for you' media about what we're doing every day. No, I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this and that would include not necessarily telling them beforehand where every stop is going to be.”
Sarah Palin is continuing to drive the press corps batty with her unscripted, unscheduled bus tour through the Northeast and points unknown.
A CBS journalist warned that a young producer could be hurt in a car crash trying to trail Palin’s tour bus as it makes its way up the I-95 Corridor, and pressies in general are exasperated by the cat and mouse game Palin is playing.
Palin, for her part, seems to be loving it. She told Greta Van Susteren that it is all part of her unconventional approach to public life and showed some pleasure at the thought of turning the tables on an establishment press corps that has so bedeviled her.
She is taunting them now: You’re the ones following me, so don’t complain.
When Palin popped in for a pizza dinner with Donald Trump, the press corps was like moths splattering themselves against a million-candle-powered searchlight. And the closer her land yacht rolls to New Hampshire, the greater the anticipation and interest becomes.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“This is the sequel: Summer of Recovery II. I'm sure they will announce it next year as well. Probably happen in 2018, the way it's going. We're seeing a historically, extremely, unusually weak recovery.
I notice when the press characterizes these numbers like the one on housing today, the word ‘unexpectedly’ is used. What is unexpected about it? We have 1.8 percent growth in the economy, extremely anemic. We have a sky-high price for energy and food, which is stealing money out of the consumer economy. We have 9 percent unemployment and we have this historic drop in the price of housing. There is nothing unexpected about it.”