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Posted at 06:58 PM ET, 03/28/2011

President Obama’s Libya speech: The reaction from Capitol Hill

Updated 9:30 p.m.

President Obama’s address to the nation Monday night on the U.S. involvement in Libya drew plenty of responses from Capitol Hill, where many lawmakers have been sharply critical of Obama’s handling of the Libyan conflict.

Some members of Congress released pre-buttals even before Obama had delivered his address.

Here’s a cross-section of the reactions:

Senate Democrats

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.): “The United States has a proud history of standing alongside those who stand up for their own freedom. This month, as Moammar Gaddafi’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. . . . While I support the president’s decision not to commit ground troops to this mission, I share the president’s determination to see this tyrant removed from power.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee: “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 Moammar Gaddafi’s forces. I am pleased that NATO is now assuming control of the mission, and it is important that partners in the Arab League, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, continue to play an active role in enforcing the no-fly zone and ensuring the protection of the Libyan people.”

Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.), on a conference call with reporters after Obama’s speech: “I believe that the president did and has consulted with the Congress on what’s happening in the area of Libya.” Udall added that there are still unanswered questions, including, “What are the details of the level of our involvement through NATO and for approximately what duration?”

Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), another member of the Foreign Relations Committee, called on Obama to remind Americans of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s alleged role in ordering the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. In a statement ahead of Obama’s remarks, he called Gaddafi “a terrorist – the moral equivalent of Osama bin Laden.”

In a brief interview Monday night, Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) said that Obama “has to reassure the American people that the reason for us going to the U.N. and joining forces with the U.N. to do what we did was legitimate and the right thing to do to protect innocent people; that our goals are limited in nature and that we will not be engaging in any war with Gaddafi.”

Senate Republicans

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said in floor remarks ahead of Obama’s speech that the president has “failed to explain” the next steps for the United States in Libya. “If the American people are uncertain as to our military objectives in Libya, it’s with good cause. ... Further, the President has articulated a wider political objective of regime change in Libya that is not the stated objective of our military intervention; nor is it the mandate of the U.N. resolution that the president has used as a justification for our military efforts there.”

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) said after Obama’s speech. “I welcome the president’s clarity that the U.S. goal is for Gaddafi 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 Gaddafi’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 Gaddafi remains in power, he will increasingly pose a threat to the world, and civilians in Libya will not be fully secure.”

Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) delivered a video response to Obama’s speech. “In 2007, then-candidate Obama said that ‘The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.’ I agree with candidate Obama,” Paul said. “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. Roy Blunt (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. . . . The president’s response to these upheavals has often been unsteady and uncertain. If the United States was going to act in Libya, the president should have acted weeks before he did, and done so using much clearer guiding principles and with a more clearly-defined strategy.”

Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said before Obama’s speech that while Gaddafi “has engaged in a reprehensible campaign against his own people, I have yet to hear the clearly defined U.S. national interest in participating in what appears to be a developing civil war in the country and hope to receive a clear definition from President Obama tonight. ... I hope the administration will soon present to Congress a detailed accounting of the cost of operations to date, any expected additional expenses to be incurred by the U.S. related to military and humanitarian operations in Libya and how the administration will cover these costs.”

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio): “The situation in Libya, with a dictator turning a nation’s military against its own people, is tragic. 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. . . . Tonight’s speech left many questions unanswered, and as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I look forward to learning more from the administration regarding the national security rationale in the hearings and briefings to follow this week.”

House Republicans

House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), through his spokesman, Michael Steel: “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. Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: What does success in Libya look like?”

Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, praised Obama’s handling of Libya. “I agree with the president,” Hunter said. “I agree with what he’s done so far on his use of force. I agree on his timing. I agree on the fact that he went in with a coalition.”

Intelligence committee Chairman Mike Rogers (Mich.): “I was calling for a ‘no fly zone’ for weeks before the president decided to act, and I am happy we are moving forward. We should have acted sooner, but nonetheless, we clearly prevented the slaughter of thousands of Libyan civilians in Benghazi. After hearing what the president had to say tonight, I still have questions about how far we are willing to go when it comes to removing Gaddafi from power. What are we willing to do to ensure that we don’t end up creating a stalemate and a failed state in Libya? I look forward to discussing these issues with the administration over the coming weeks and months.”

House Democrats

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (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. . . . 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.”

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (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.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.): “As an ordained minister, I am an advocate of the seven principles of a just war which are not, in my opinion, theologically present in the military policy relating to Libya. As a member of Congress, however; I can understand the position that President Obama was in to protect the Libyan people in order to prevent a potential genocide. . . . We cannot afford another Iraq or Afghanistan, and I firmly believe that the President fully understands that.”

Rep. Adam Smith(Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee: “While initially I had some concerns with the level of communication between the administration, Congress and the American people, I applaud the administration for its recent efforts. The president and his leadership team have clearly stated to the American people and Congress what the goal is in Libya. This must continue. . . . I applaud the president for stating a clear case as to why we intervened in Libya, and as policy makers it is important that we make it clear what the criteria are for interventions of this kind moving forward.”

Rep. Mike Honda (Calif.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force, said in a statement Monday night that “the key concern remains the lack of Congressional involvement and oversight. ... If the U.S. wants to lead and inspire the world in setting the standard for good governance, getting this executive-legislative relationship right is critical.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), who has been the most outspoken critic of Obama’s on Libya to date, said in a statement that “Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution is very clear. It is Congress that determines when our nation goes to war. President Obama superseded that authority and bought a new war for the American people without Congressional approval. We must know what it will cost, how long it will last, what is the end game, and when will NATO — whose military bills we pay — get out.”

By  |  06:58 PM ET, 03/28/2011

 
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