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Cornyn to introduce resolution on Libyan regime change

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will soon become the first senator to introduce a non-binding resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the war in Libya, and it calls for regime change to be the explicit policy of the United States. Cornyn could introduce his resolution as early as today. The resolution, which was obtained ...

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will soon become the first senator to introduce a non-binding resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the war in Libya, and it calls for regime change to be the explicit policy of the United States.

Cornyn could introduce his resolution as early as today. The resolution, which was obtained by The Cable (PDF), states, "the policy of the United States should be to remove Muammar al-Qaddafi from power and to use military force, if necessary, to achieve that goal."

The resolution also calls on President Barack Obama to submit a plan to achieve Qaddafi's ouster, and to seek congressional authorization for the military intervention in Libya.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will soon become the first senator to introduce a non-binding resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the war in Libya, and it calls for regime change to be the explicit policy of the United States.

Cornyn could introduce his resolution as early as today. The resolution, which was obtained by The Cable (PDF), states, "the policy of the United States should be to remove Muammar al-Qaddafi from power and to use military force, if necessary, to achieve that goal."

The resolution also calls on President Barack Obama to submit a plan to achieve Qaddafi’s ouster, and to seek congressional authorization for the military intervention in Libya.

Cornyn’s stance on Libya is contrary to Obama’s policy in two ways: It explicitly calls for using U.S. force to oust Qaddafi and at the same time insists that Congress must approve any military action, even retroactively.

The resolution quotes Obama and other administration officials repeatedly insisting that the long-term policy is that Qaddafi should "step down." It then demands that Obama spell out exactly how that goal will be achieved and what U.S. objectives are in a post-Qaddafi Libya.

Cornyn’s draft resolution also rejects the administration’s assertion that a March 1 resolution calling for a no-fly zone in Libya, which passed by voice vote in the Senate, sufficed as "congressional authorization" for the extensive military operations the United States has engaged in to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.

Cornyn’s resolution has little chance of being passed by the Senate; it is not likely to be supported by either Democratic leadership or many Senate Republicans, who would prefer a resolution that endorses the Obama administration’s limited action in Libya.

Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are working on a draft of what they hope will be a consensus-winning resolution. McCain said that he wants to make sure the resolution is made up of "language that can receive an overwhelming vote in the Senate. It would not be a good signal, otherwise."

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), one of Obama’s staunchest defenders on Libya, is also said to be working on a separate resolution.

But other Republican senators are complicating the issue by insisting their views on the Libyan intervention get an airing. Like Cornyn, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also wants the Senate to officially endorse regime change, a step Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) adamantly opposes.

Reid’s office told the Washington Post that Rubio’s "rash suggestions could commit our troops irrevocably to a regime change and nation-building effort that could take months or years and cost billions of taxpayer dollars."

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who is against the Libya war, angered Reid and halted work last week on a small business bill by adding an amendment that would force the Senate to vote on whether the president has the right to wage war without congressional consent in cases where there is no imminent threat to the nation.

Paul is shining a spotlight on then-candidate Obama’s 2007 statement to the Boston Globe, in which he said, "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Sooner rather than later, however, the Senate will have to find a way to express its will on the Libya war. Just whose resolution will come up for a vote, though, is still unclear.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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