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Congress / Libya

Congressional Reaction to Obama's Libya Speech

March 28, 2011

Congressional reaction to President Obama’s speech was swift—and, in many cases, critical. Here are excerpts of what members of Congress have said within minutes of the speech:

Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: “It was helpful that the American people were able to hear from their commander-in-chief tonight. Unfortunately, Americans waited a long time to get few new answers. Whether it’s the American resources that will be required, our standards and objectives for engaging the rebel opposition, or how this action is consistent with U.S. policy goals, the speech failed to provide Americans much clarity to our involvement in Libya.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: “Tonight, President Obama spoke to the nation about limited American participation in international efforts to protect innocent Libyans from the 'show no mercy' threat by Qaddafi. Action was taken to stave off a humanitarian crisis saving thousands of lives.… Members of Congress will receive a classified briefing from the administration on our future limited role in Libya this week and congressional committees will hold oversight hearings. U.S. actions in Libya will be strengthened by continued consultation with Congress. I commend the president for his courage in taking this action and salute our men and women in uniform for their part in saving lives.”

 

House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.: “I support this lifesaving effort, which has been authorized by the United Nations and backed by our European allies and the Arab League. I also applaud the service and courage of the American troops who are helping to carry it out. It is essential, however, that the president continue to inform and consult with Congress as long as American troops remain part of this mission.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: "The United States has a proud history of standing alongside those who stand up for their own freedom. This month, as [Qaddafi's] forces massed outside the rebel-held city of Benghazi, Libya, and prepared to inflict further atrocities on the Libyan people, we acted to stop this deadly advance. Our men and women in uniform have performed bravely and with unwavering commitment to liberty."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: "I welcome the president’s strong defense of our military action in Libya, and I appreciate that he explained why this intervention was both right and necessary in light of the unprecedented democratic awakening now sweeping the broader Middle East."

“I welcome the president’s clarity that the U.S. goal is for Qaddafi to leave power. But an equal amount of clarity is still required on how we will accomplish that goal. U.S. and coalition airpower has decisively reversed Qaddafi’s momentum, but the potential for a long and bloody stalemate is still far too high. That is not in America’s interest. As long as Qaddafi remains in power, he will increasingly pose a threat to the world, and civilians in Libya will not be fully secure. The United States and our allies must continue to take ‘all necessary measures’ to compel Qaddafi to leave power, as called for in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. That means providing material support to opposition forces in Libya while continuing to target Qaddafi’s forces in the field. We are not neutral in the outcome of the fighting in Libya. We have chosen a side against Qaddafi, and now we must help the opposition succeed."

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio: "I remain very concerned, however, that President Obama has yet to clearly define the scope of our mission, the metrics for success, and our ultimate goal in Libya. With chaos in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen, and Iran again stepping up activity in Syria and with Hamas, President Obama has yet to justify our involvement in Libya; even Defense Secretary [Robert] Gates said the involvement was not in our vital, national security interest. Tonight’s speech left many questions unanswered.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky: “The president of the United States often faces unforeseeable dilemmas that demand tough decisions based on reliable intelligence. The recent events in Libya presented President Obama with such a scenario. But how our commander in chief chose to handle this new dilemma raises serious questions about his understanding of constitutional checks and balances.... Unfortunately, President Obama has failed to heed his own advice. He has ignored our constitution and engaged us in a military conflict without congressional debate and approval.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif: “President Obama reminded the country tonight of why it was critical for the international community to take action to prevent the mass slaughter of innocent men, women, and children by [Qaddafi's] forces.”  

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.: “I think President Obama did the right thing by joining other countries to protect Libyan civilians from being attacked by forces loyal to Muammar el-Qaddafi…Tonight, I think he clearly explained how we're involved in a limited campaign, and NATO has taken command of continuing operations. As the president also said, we've already greatly diminished Qaddafi's ability to attack the Libyan people.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.: “Whenever the president of the United States authorizes a military intervention, he must clearly define the goal and mission of our involvement to Congress, our men and women in uniform, and the American people. Unfortunately, President Obama has failed to meet this criteria, and the cost of our involvement in Libya remains unclear.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio: “I heard an Obama doctrine in which war is an executive privilege. We are in dangerous territory here.”

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa: “I’m concerned, and I know many Americans are concerned, that tonight we didn’t get a clear and accurate accounting from the president on how much this conflict in Libya is going to cost American taxpayers. We’ve got two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—and Americans deserve to hear from our president what this third conflict is going to cost us. I look forward to meeting with Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton later this week and hearing their explanation of the costs of this operation and their strategy for moving forward in Libya.”

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich.: “The important question that the president did not clearly state is where he draws the line … President Obama said he did not want to wait to see images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action, however, since President Obama took office such pictures have emerged from places like the Congo and Darfur yet President Obama did not advocate for military intervention.

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