Open Congress catches a Fox Nutwork report that should raise some eyebrows:
The House was scheduled to vote this afternoon on a privileged resolution from Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10] directing the President, pursuant to the War Powers Act, to remove U.S. armed forces from Libya. But the House leadership has pulled it from the floor because, according to Republican aides who spoke with Fox News, “it became clear that it might succeed.”
“[Republican leaders] hadn’t seen much of a threat from [the Kucinich bill]. He’s kind of this marginal figure and having his resolution go down narrowly would be no big deal and might even send a message to the administration,” said one of the Republican aides. “But once they saw that there was substantial support, they were like, ‘Whoa.’”
This has been a long-running problem with the War Powers Resolution. Congress has long been afraid to test its constitutional validity, lest they find out they don't have the powers they thought they did. Likewise, presidential administrations have feared finding out they don't have the powers they thought they did. And so the War Powers Resolution has lived in this uncertain gray zone ever since, "surviving" perhaps only because everyone was worried what they'd find if they poked it to see if it was really still alive (or ever was).
Overlying this, and perhaps becoming clearer now than it ever has before, is the fact that the question of what the Constitution says (at any given moment) is something ultimately decided by fewer than ten people in the country. Nine, to be specific. And even then, what it says might only be enforceable by one person. Though, of course, some combination of 285 out of the 535 voting Members of Congress can always decide to change who that one person is.
But the Republican leadership's reaction to the ability of this combination of genuine anti-war sentiment with anti-administration pranksterism to actually create a real-life constitutional and foreign policy crisis, has given rise to a somewhat more immediate and narrower question: Is this a clue as to how they'll ultimately react in the game of debt ceiling brinksmanship?
That is, at the last possible moment, if it looks like Republican eagerness to try to punk the administration into default might actually result in default, will their leadership call it off?
The situations are by no means exactly the same. And there's more than enough daylight between them to question the parallel. But there's arguably much less at stake in the Libya question (at least in terms of things Republicans care about, like money), and yet the leadership has gone knock-kneed.
That's worth thinking about.