Two House Republicans are in a turf battle over how to give President Obama the authority to kill the terrorists who killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
More than a year after the attack, one of the most persistent questions aimed at administration officials is why the perpetrators, who have been charged by the Justice Department, are still free.
In closed-door testimony before the House Committee on Armed Services in October, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman, provided part of the answer: The 2001 law known as Authorization of Use of Military Force allows the U.S. to kill/capture al Qaeda — but not the terrorists in Benghazi, where they would have to be arrested, presumedly with Libya’s consent.
With that testimony, Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, introduced an amendment to grant the commander-in-chief use of military force powers for Benghazi. He got more than 20 co-sponsors and waited for last week’s mark-up of the 2015 defense budget/policy bill by the Armed Services committee, on which he sits.
But a phone call scuttled that plan.
“Royce, as committee chairman, has every prerogative to say, ‘No, you can’t do it,’” the aide said. “We’re all about getting to the heart of the matter and insuring the president has the authority.”
The strategy is this: The Democratic-controlled Senate would not likely ever take up such a bill. By putting the amendment in the House’s defense legislation, it would go to conference with the Senate and could then emerge in the final 2015 authorization act, the aide said. Otherwise, it would die in the Senate as a standalone bill.
Mr. Hunter left the mark-up with a new plan: to bring it up for full House debate. House rules allow him to present it as an amendment once the Pentagon bill hits the House floor the week of May 19.
“Using that vehicle improves the chances that something will get done,” the staffer said.
But Mr. Royce apparently is not acceding to that plan, either.
A Foreign Affairs committee spokesman said the Hunter bill is now with Mr. Royce’s committee.
The spokesman provided a statement to The Washington Times:
“Chairman Royce believes the president has the authority, to say nothing of the responsibility, to bring these killers of Americans to justice. However, some in the administration have questioned the president’s authority to target the Benghazi terrorists. The Hunter proposal was referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee, according to House rules, where it will be acted upon with the support of the chairman or moved as a floor amendment.”