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Senate Libya debate unlikely this month

The Senate probably won’t be debating the Libya war anytime soon. Top senators on both sides of the aisle are still negotiating over language for a resolution to express the Senate’s view on the U.S. involvement in Libya, while the budget battle pushes the intervention to the back burner. Congress was upset with President Barack ...

The Senate probably won't be debating the Libya war anytime soon. Top senators on both sides of the aisle are still negotiating over language for a resolution to express the Senate's view on the U.S. involvement in Libya, while the budget battle pushes the intervention to the back burner.

Congress was upset with President Barack Obama last month for committing U.S. forces to the international military intervention in Libya without seeking congressional consent or even really telling Congress about it in advance. But now, almost a month after the attack began, the appetite in the Senate for holding a full-fledged Libya debate on the floor, much less passing a resolution, just isn't there.

The Senate probably won’t be debating the Libya war anytime soon. Top senators on both sides of the aisle are still negotiating over language for a resolution to express the Senate’s view on the U.S. involvement in Libya, while the budget battle pushes the intervention to the back burner.

Congress was upset with President Barack Obama last month for committing U.S. forces to the international military intervention in Libya without seeking congressional consent or even really telling Congress about it in advance. But now, almost a month after the attack began, the appetite in the Senate for holding a full-fledged Libya debate on the floor, much less passing a resolution, just isn’t there.

"I don’t know if there will be time" to debate a resolution before senators leave town for a two-week recess next week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) told The Cable in an interview on Tuesday.

Kerry said he was still working on a resolution with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)  that expresses support for Obama’s policy and that Sen. Carl Levin (D-MA) has also had input. But the three of them just can’t seem to get together on the final language.

 "We’ve got the language resolved except for two words," Kerry said. He didn’t say what those two words are, but several senate sources mentioned "regime change."

Regime change was the focus of the draft resolution circulated by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) last week. Cornyn’s draft is the marker inside the GOP caucus — but because it outwardly calls for regime change in Libya, it goes farther than the White House’s policy and therefore can’t be signed onto by the administration’s top supporters on Libya, which include Levin and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).

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.

We’re told by multiple GOP senate aides that ultimately, a majority of the GOP caucus could go along with removing the phrase "regime change" from the resolution, but there’s still no consensus. Meanwhile, there are also several senators who are just flat out opposed to the Libya war, including Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and SFRC ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN).

In a Tuesday interview, Lugar told The Cable that he still had not received any clarity from the administration on the objectives, goals, or costs of the Libya war, which he said is just as important as resolving the issue of congressional authorization for the war.

"There’s been no plan, no metrics for success, no budget as to how much will be spent during the conflict nor post conflict," Lugar said. "I think these are all important things and we’ll continue to call for it."

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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