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Public Statements

Regarding Deployment of United States Armed Forces in Libya

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SHERMAN. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I have been here a long time, and I have never come to this floor for the purpose of opposing innocuous resolutions. In fact, I've voted for every piece of innocuous legislation and post office renaming in the last 15 years, as far as I can remember. And this is innocuous legislation.

First, it starts with a sense of Congress about our opinion as to what should or shouldn't be done. It has a sentence that purports to prevent the President from putting ground forces in Libya, but in fact just states that's our policy. It is certainly not designed to prohibit the President from doing so; it just says that it's our opinion that he shouldn't. And, by the way, in the Defense authorization bill, we have real legislation that already prohibits putting ground forces in Libya.

It then goes on to ask that a number of questions be answered. There are some who think, that's important. Those who think that the questions propounded in this resolution are actually going to get us useful information are insulting the faculty of the law schools of America, because both the Pentagon and the State Department have lawyers capable of writing long and meaningless answers to every question we propound. And as for getting documents, some of the documents demanded we already have, and as for the rest, those same lawyers will be writing long documents about executive privilege.

So we have here a document that at most is just questions for the Record that the chairwoman of our committee allows me to add at the end of so many hearings; hardly earthshaking, certainly innocuous.

But, okay, so it's innocuous. Or is it?

This is innocuous legislation that plays a particular role in avoiding the constitutional role of this Congress. It allows us to sidestep the War Powers Act. It gives cover to those who don't want to authorize, or refuse to authorize. It says we're an advisory body. We ask some questions so we can give good advice. We will give the President some advice. It is part of the trend of an aggrandizing executive and a derelict Congress, a Congress that almost is complicit in this slow process by which we are not legislators, we are not deciders; we inquire and we advise.

The Constitution is clear, but the War Powers Act is more clear: the President must ask for congressional authorization. Then we actually have to act, and that is tough. We have to review the proposals, and I believe our ranking member (Mr. Berman) would have one that would say, What are we going to authorize? Under what conditions? What demands will we make of our allies in Libya to perhaps turn over to us, or at least disassociate themselves from, the al Qaeda operatives in their midst? Are we going to limit the duration? Are we going to limit the scope? Are we going to impose limits on the total cost?

With this resolution, we can avoid all of those questions. We can avoid demanding a withdrawal. We can avoid limiting the authorization, and we can allow the President to continue to write the blank check that apparently he believes he has, and we can do it all while disassociating ourselves with anything unpopular that ever happens over the skies of Libya.

Now is not the time for us to shirk our responsibilities. Our responsibility is to act as a policy-making body.


Mr. SHERMAN. Now is the time for us to play the role that the War Powers Act provides, because this is not an immediate short-term emergency situation. It has gone on for much longer than 60 days. It should not go further.

Now, 208 Members of this Congress voted for my amendment yesterday to say that we should not expend funds in violation of the War Powers Act, and you were willing to vote for it even though I put it on a bill as to which it really didn't pertain. Thank you for those votes, but now please come back here and say, It's time to enforce the War Powers Act. It's time not to dodge the War Powers Act. It's time for our policy over the skies in Libya to be determined by the President and Congress, not the President advised by Congress.

Vote "no'' on this resolution. Don't use it as a sidestep. Instead, go back to your constituents and say, You are for voting either for a withdrawal from Libya or for a full authorization or for a limited authorization.


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