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Defunding Libya

March 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress comes back from recess they’re going to have about a week and a half to pass another stopgap bill to prevent the government running. If the military operation in Libya are still going on at that point, as many expect they will be, the bill, which is considered a “must pass,” will give Congress an opportunity to use their authority over federal budget to wind it down. That effort is going to be led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10], who announced his intention to introduce a defund Libya amendment in a “Dear Colleague” letter yesterday:

A few days ago, the United States and our allies began conducting United Nations-sanctioned, U.S.-led military operations against Libya.  The establishment of a no-fly zone by the U.S. and our allies, billed as an act to protect civilians in Libya, is an act of war.  Yet the President committed the U.S. to military intervention without consulting Congress, in clear subversion of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives only Congress the power to declare war.

According to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the initial costs of a no-fly zone could cost the U.S. between $400 and $800 million, or $30 to $100 million per week.  We have already spent trillions of dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which descended into unwinnable quagmires.  Now, the President is plunging the United States into yet another war we cannot afford.  While the Administration assures us that that the U.S. will hand-off its lead role to coalition partners within days, we have not been notified of long-term plans or goals following initial air strikes in the country. The timeline the President gave to Congress was summarized with one word: “limited.”

I intend to offer an amendment to the forthcoming Continuing Resolution or Omnibus Appropriations bill that would prohibit funding for U.S. involvement in military operations in Libya.  I urge you to support this amendment. 

Best guesses put the cost of establishing the no-fly zone at $400-$800 million (note that we’re already very close to $400 million) and that enforcing it will cost $30 million to $100 million per week. That’s serious money — enough that it’s threatening to negate the spending cuts that Congress has enacted so far this year. There’s no doubt that the costs of the Libya operations will be paid for with cuts to other domestic programsSome Republicans have already come out in favor of defunding the Libya operations, which suggests that the Kucinch amendment could have some legs. When unusual coalitions of liberals and conservatives come together on an issue, big things can happen. Think auditing the Federal Reserve and eliminating the F-35 alternative engine program.

Pictured above is wreckage from a downed US F15 fighter jet in Libya.

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