Bloomberg News

Debt Debate Causes U.S. Senate to Drop Vote on Libya Mission

July 05, 2011

(Updates with comment from Corker in sixth paragraph.)

July 5 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set aside an effort to debate a resolution authorizing U.S. military involvement in Libya after Republicans clamored instead for a focus on the U.S. debt.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, acted today after a parade of Republicans took to the Senate floor to complain that the chamber had canceled a week-long recess ostensibly to debate the dispute over raising the government’s debt limit and were instead being asked to vote on President Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya’s civil war.

Reid canceled the recess late last week after Obama said lawmakers should stay in Washington until Republicans and Democrats can agree on extending the $14.3 trillion debt limit, which Treasury officials say is needed before Aug. 2 to avoid a possible default.

“Regardless of how one feels about the Libyan resolution, that’s not what we need to be doing this week,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and the party’s ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.

Procedural Vote

Several Senate Republicans said a procedural vote related to the resolution that Reid had scheduled for today, which required support from 60 lawmakers to pass, would have failed because of the push to discuss spending limits and deficit reduction.

“Momentum just continued to build” against Reid’s agenda plan, Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, told reporters after the Libya resolution was pulled from the floor.

The bipartisan resolution, approved last week by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, backs Obama’s deployment of U.S. warplanes to support NATO-led bombardment of Libya. Obama’s refusal to seek direct congressional authorization of the U.S. role in the mission has sparked dissent among lawmakers, with the House last week defeating a resolution to authorize it.

Debating the Foreign Relations panel’s resolution would be “burning a week’s time on what’s totally irrelevant to what’s happening in Libya, and certainly irrelevant to what’s facing our country,” Corker said in a floor speech.

The procedural vote Reid had scheduled for today would have limited debate on the Libya resolution, setting the stage for a final vote on the measure later this week. His change of course doesn’t bar him from bringing up the resolution at a later date.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who co-sponsored the resolution, said he hoped the measure would be taken up next week.

--Editors: Don Frederick, Leslie Hoffecker

To contact the reporters on this story: James Rowley in Washington at jarowley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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