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Posted at 04:35 PM ET, 03/23/2011

Three top Democratic senators back Obama on Libya; Pelosi calls for continued consultation with Congress

Updated 4:35 p.m.

Although some members of Congress have heightened their criticism of the U.S. involvement in Libya, a trio of senior Democratic senators on Wednesday defended President Obama’s action on the conflict and suggested that any congressional efforts to halt U.S. involvement are not likely to get far.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) later Wednesday expressed support for the White House on Libya but sounded a more cautious note than the three senators did, emphasizing the need for continued consultation between Obama and Congress.

“Actions taken by the international community have already prevented [Gaddafi]from implementing his threat to ‘show no mercy’ to his own people, including those living in the city of Benghazi,” Pelosi said. “Decisions made in the days ahead are strengthened by our NATO partners’ participation. U.S. participation is strengthened by the President’s continued consultation with Congress.”

.Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, earlier Wednesday expressed their support on a conference call with reporters on the fifth day of U.S. and allied intervention.

“The reason I think that the president will gain bipartisan support for his action is that he has proceeded in a way that is cautious and thoughtful,” Levin said on the call. “He has put the ducks in a row before he decided that the United States should take the lead for a short period of time to do what only we could do because of the accurate targeting that our type of equipment has.”

“That was the right course of action,” Levin added, noting that if Obama had acted unilaterally, the U.S. “would not have had the support” of the international community.

Durbin said that Obama “moved with unprecedented speed” to condemn Moammar Gaddafi and impose sanctions when it became apparent that the Libyan leader began cracking down on protesters, then later worked with international allies to take further action.

“I might say that I think this was a very wise course,” Durbin said, comparing Obama’s response to President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 decision to involve U.S. troops in Kuwait.

Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who criticized Obama on Libya in a fundraising video this week, has said he will introduce an amendment to a government spending bill when Congress returns next week that “would prohibit funding for U.S. involvement in military operations in Libya.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is also planning a hearing on Libya next week, The Hill reported Wednesday.

The three Democratic senators suggested that some members of Congress may try to halt U.S. involvement in Libya or defund the effort, but they predicted that those efforts would face stiff opposition in the upper chamber, where criticism of Obama on Libya has been more muted than in the House.

“I don’t think they will get anywhere near success in the Senate,” Levin said, adding that “there’s strong bipartisan support” of the U.S. military involvement. Durbin said he was supportive of “the right of the Congress to assert its constitutional authority” on the matter.

On the issue of whether the U.S. intends to oust Gaddafi, Levin said that Obama has been “very clear” and that “the long-term goal here is obviously that he not stay in power.”

The senators had few details when it came to the funding the U.S. military involvement in Libya.

“I haven’t heard anything on that score yet,” Durbin said when asked for details. Levin said that “there have been ballpark estimates given, but won’t pass them along because they’re too inaccurate, too broad,” although he projected that the costs will be lessened by the fact that the U.S. is “the junior partner in a multilateral effort.”

By  |  04:35 PM ET, 03/23/2011

 
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