On March 1 the U.S. Senate passed a resolution by unanimous consent calling for a no-fly zone in Libya. Many Senators are angry, because they feel like they were the subject of a bait and switch.
The resolution was advertised as a condemnation of the human rights situation in Libya, yet this Administration has used it to provide the fig leaf of congressional authorization for hostilities in that country.
The resolution was vetted as a denunciation of the “gross and systematic violations of human rights in Libya.” Language was added in secret that put the Senate on record in favor of a no-fly zone. This resolution was changed at the last minute, to give the Obama Administration a talking point that the Senate had requested a no-fly zone.
Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner reports in a story titled “How the Senate was bait and switched into war” that Senators and staff were unaware of the provision in the resolution putting the Senate on record in favor of a no-fly zone.
According to numerous congressional aides, almost no members knew about the no-fly zone language. Most offices thought they were approving a different resolution – with the same sponsor and a nearly identical title – that had been circulating among congressional offices for two weeks.
The resolution, S. Res. 85, was circulated without any reference to a no-fly zone and under the purpose of condemning human rights violations in Libya:
Strongly condemning the gross and systematic violations of human rights in Libya, including violent attacks on protesters demanding democratic reforms, and for other purposes.
Carroll provides evidence in the form of an email dated Feb. 22, 2011.
In a February 22 email obtained by the Examiner, an aide to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) sent a resolution to the staff of members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee condemning human rights abuses in Libya. There was no mention of a no-fly zone.
Here is how it went down, according to Carroll. First the bill was “hotlined.” Hotlining is when the Senators’ office phones ring and they receive a message to the effect that “the Majority Leader in consultation with the Republican Leader would like to call up and pass (insert bill number).” According to Carroll, the full text of this resolution “was not made public until the day after the Senate approved it.”
In other words, the resolution was hotlined and staffers assumed that the leadership was hotlining the Menendez version of the resolution to call for human rights in Libya. They were unaware that they were being put on record with the following language that was added in secret on or about March 1:
Resolved that the Senate … (7) urges the United Nations Security Council to take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.”
The Senate passed the resolution by unanimous consent, putting the Senate on record that every single Senator approved of the proposal. Many Senators felt snookered by this process.
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) told The Examiner: “Clearly, the process was abused. You don’t use a hotline to bait and switch the country into a military conflict. There is no more difficult decision than whether to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way. With no imminent threat to the national security of the United States, the President should have asked for authorization and Congress should have had a thorough debate.”
Any way you slice it, the process used to pass the resolution was controversial and out of the ordinary.
As a result of Carroll’s Examiner piece, the Obama Administration should retire the talking point that the Senate “unanimously in a resolution called for the imposition of a no-fly zone.” It is not accurate.