The Senate Foreign Relations Committee completed a hearing on Libya war powers this morning, and will proceed to a business meeting this afternoon to debate whether to report the Libya resolution to the Senate floor. While we won't go over the hearing in detail, we will provide some highlights to look for if you go back and watch the hearing on C-SPAN. We'll also tell you where we think the members of the committee fall on the Libya issue.
Probable Committee Votes on Libya Authorization
YES: Kerry (D-MA), Boxer (D-CA), Menendez (D-NJ), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Shaheen (D-NH), Coons (D-DE), Durbin (D-IL), Rubio (R-FL), Isakson (R-GA), Barrasso (R-WY)
NO: Webb (D-VA), Lugar (R-IN), Corker (R-TN), Risch (R-ID), Lee (R-UT), Inhofe (R-OK)
Tom Udall (D-NM): has called Libya operation a "slippery slope" but may feel pressure from other Democrats
These are just guesses based on on-the-record statements and co-sponsorships.
Highlights From The Hearing
(1) Rare Disagreement in Opening Statements
Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar, the chairman and ranking member respectively, have proven able to work together on matters of foreign policy and tend not to disagree overtly. The spirit of comity still existed, but Senator Kerry clearly supported the administration's policy on Libya while Senator Lugar questioned the national interests, costs, legality, and consultation behind the policy.
(2) Kerry-Corker Fireworks
The Chairman usually gets the first opportunity to ask questions, but Senator Kerry reserved his time to intervene at a later point. Shortly after Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) finished his round of questions, Senator Kerry jumped in to state that Senator Corker's assertions were not factually accurate. Senator Corker had suggested that the President was deliberately "sticking a stick" in the eyes of Congress by interpreting the law extremely narrowly and refusing to consult (to call for authorization, make witnesses available, or come to briefings) the Senate when there was no real benefit to not consulting the Senate. Senator Kerry said that a communication from the President to the Congress had asked for authorization and that it was the Senate that hadn't taken action. Kerry appeared to express anger that so much of the Senate's ire was directed at the President when the Senate hadn't taken action. Senator Corker appeared somewhat red-faced but managed to keep calm and handled the debate well.
(3) Witness Waffling
Harold Koh, the State Department's legal counsel, failed to make a satisfactory case and attempted to dodge most yes-or-no questions from Senators. Aggressive questioning from Senators yielded the same talking points. Koh repeatedly attempted to take broader issues related to legality and the national interest and narrow them to the hostilities provision of the War Powers Act, insisting that the administration "acknowledged the constitutionality" of the War Powers Act, but that the 2011 Congress shouldn't decide on the basis of a law made in the context of Vietnam.