Antiwar Rep. John Conyers plans to try to attach an amendment to the continuing resolution that should emerge next week in the House which would “prevent appropriated funds from being used to fund any type of ground troop presence on Libyan territory,” according to a letter sent to colleagues. Conyers has three co-sponsors – California Reps. Pete Stark, Mike Honda and Lynn Woolsey – for the amendment at the outset.
In the amendment, Conyers also bars the presence of private security contractors in Libya. This is from the letter:
Specifically, my amendment would prevent funds from being used to deploy, establish, or maintain a presence of Members of the Armed Services or private security contractors on the ground in Libya.
The President and his staff have been adamant in claiming that they will not put US troops on the ground in Libya. A ban “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory” is also part of UN Resolution 1973. This amendment would merely codify that into statutory language.
The amendment would be the first attempt from Congress to reassert war powers granted to them by the Constitution. Several members have grumbled about not being consulted on the Libyan mission before airstrikes have commenced. Few have done anything about it, though Rep. Tim Johnson introduced a bill to defund the Libyan mission. By attaching this to a must-pass CR, Conyers would make it much harder to dismiss. And he’s only writing into law what the President has vowed to do already; one could think of much harsher assertions of Constitutional authority over war powers.
This would also be in line with multiple actions by Congress to use the power of the purse to shape existing military conflicts around the world. Congress imposed ceilings of troops, set limits on combat activities and required Presidents to get consent for missions in Vietnam, Lebanon, Cambodia, Laos, Nicaragua, Somalia and Bosnia over the last 40 years.
This amendment barring ground troops could be separate from an authorization for the Libyan mission, which Conyers very much wants as a debate in Congress. But this amendment would, in theory, stop the mission creep in Libya in its tracks. Of course, when you have Hillary Clinton saying that the President would ignore war resolutions on Libya, the reach of the amendment could be limited. However, it does directly attach the power of the purse, and restricts funding to ground troops, which would be much more difficult to ignore.
This could mean that the not-yet-consummated deal on funding the government could have another hurdle to clear. However, House leaders would have to agree to allowing the amendment as part of the rule on the bill.