By Richard G. Thomas
Voterama in Congress
WASHINGTON — Libya is a likely center of attention when foreign policy comes up for discussion in the remaining presidential debates Tuesday and Oct. 22.
Libya also has raised partisan ire in Congress, where House Republicans last year mounted challenges to U.S. involvement in the NATO-led mission that helped topple Col. Muammar Gadhafi, the country’s ruler for 42 years. The House even voted twice on GOP-sponsored bids to cut off funding of the U.S. aerial and intelligence operation while combat raged on the ground below. Both amendments were defeated.
The Senate, controlled by Democrats, conducted one vote in 2011 on President Obama’s deployment of U.S. forces to the international coalition, defeating an attempt by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to declare it unconstitutional. Senators this year rejected an amendment by Paul to end U.S. aid to Libya.
This report on the top 20 foreign-affairs and national-security votes of the 112th Congress covers seven votes dealing with Libya. The report details votes cast on overseas issues by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP vice presidential candidate, a congressional budget specialist whose views on foreign affairs are not widely known.
Ryan’s most significant vote in recent years on the broad sweep of U.S. foreign policy occurred on June 10, 2009, in the 111th Congress, when he joined just about every other House Republican in opposing a bill to fund State Department operations. The bill later became law because Democrats controlled both chambers and the White House. In part, the bill enlarged the Foreign Service, provided the first overhaul of foreign aid in 50 years, expanded exchanges between U.S. and foreign students and bolstered arms-control and nuclear non-proliferation programs.
Obama counts America’s participation in the NATO force as a major success. No U.S. lives were lost in the operation, which began March 19 and ended soon after Gadhafi was killed on Oct. 20. America for once was not at the point of the spear in that part of the world, it had no boots on the ground and the Pentagon prepared and followed an exit strategy. And the end result of the NATO intervention was to avert a slaughter of civilians and give Libyans a chance to form a democracy, albeit one they have bungled so far.