Washington (CNN) – Frustrated rank-and-file House Republicans Wednesday pushed their leadership to go further in rebuking President Obama over his handling of Libya, pressing GOP leaders to schedule a vote to defund the military mission.
The bill, which the House could vote on as early as Friday, is a much stronger statement than the non-binding resolution leaders originally introduced that called for removing U.S. forces from hostilities in Libya.
The legislation was still being finalized, but unlike the resolution leaders had planned to vote on this week, it ups the ante and exercises Congress' power to control spending. Even if the bill were to pass the House, it would be tough to get it through the Senate. But the vote sets up a much stronger political clash with the White House, as members express growing irritation at the Administration's view it didn't need to consult Congress.
According to a senior GOP leadership aide–who asked not to be named because the language of the bill was still being worked on–the new legislation would not allow funding for U.S. forces engaged in hostilities in Libya. But the aide said it would "not cut the rug out of NATO," allowing continued funding for limited activities such as surveillance.
Leaders had originally planned to hold two votes Thursday – one that mirrored language by Senators John McCain, R-Arizona, and John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, which would authorize the current mission in Libya for one year. House Speaker John Boehner said that measure was expected to fail. The GOP leaders' second resolution directed the president to remove all U.S. forces "from hostilities with respect to Libya."
But at a special meeting Wednesday for all House Republicans to discuss their planned votes, members made it clear that the resolution wasn't strong enough and they felt it was time to go on record defunding the mission.
"You can do resolutions till you're blue in the face. If they go over to the Senate and they don't go anywhere, what are we going to do next week –another resolution saying we really don't like what the president is doing?" asked Rep.Tom Rooney, R-Florida. "Or are we going to pull the trigger and cut off the faucet?"
Florida Republican Allen West criticized the original version the leaders drafted, saying "I just think the [leadership resolution] basically keeps things the status quo."
West said it was time to cut off funding, saying "we're kind of cash strapped in our country right now and the last thing we need to do is be engaged in another combat theatre of operations."