Senate panel limits role in Libya

WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved a resolution limiting the U.S. role in NATO's Libya mission to one year.

The resolution passed on a 14-5 vote. It puts the Senate at odds with the House of Representatives, which last week resoundingly rejected a measure to extend the three-month-old U.S. involvement in Libya for a year.

The full Senate is expected to take up the resolution next month. The measure, co-sponsored by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says it's in the national interest for President Obama to employ the U.S. military in the NATO-led mission to prevent Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from crushing his population.

But like the House, several senators expressed serious reservations about how Obama went about engaging American forces and raised questions about whether the president violated the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which no president has ever acknowledged as binding.

That law requires a president to seek congressional approval within 60 days of the start of any conflict. If approval isn't granted, U.S. involvement is to end within 30 days.

Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Foreign Relations Committee's ranking Republican, said the Kerry-McCain resolution is too broad, lacks teeth, and gives Obama too much leeway. He tried to narrow the resolution with a series of amendments.

Noting that the U.S. is still engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and is saddled with more than $14 trillion in debt, Lugar said the nation should "not be intervening in a civil war" in Libya.

The committee did adopt a Lugar amendment that establishes that the current U.S. military operations over Libya do constitute hostilities under the War Powers Resolution and are subject to that resolution's provisions that require authorization by Congress.