“The American people stand behind the people of Libya as they bring an end to Moammar Qaddafi’s regime of murder and oppression,” Reid said in a statement released Monday evening. “I commend the President for his leadership, and the members of our armed forces, NATO, and our allies for protecting the Libyan people as they pursue their right to freedom, to self-governance, and to see this ruthless dictator brought to justice.”

He added that, as Libya approaches a post-Gaddafi era, “the international community will look to the leaders of the opposition to implement a peaceful transition to democracy” and that the United States should “encourage that process.”

Reid’s remarks marked the first statement by a congressional leader on the conflict since rebels secured control of much of the capital city of Tripoli on Sunday. Several congressional Republicans issued statements on the conflict Sunday and earlier Monday, hailing the news that the Gaddafi regime may be near its end.

Several other congressional Democrats issued statements on the conflict Monday evening.

Rep. Howard Berman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the advance of the rebel forces “a great moment for the Libyan people and for their pursuit of freedom from tyranny.”

“I urge the Libyan rebels to continue to show restraint and professionalism as they continue military operations and to uphold international principles of justice,” Berman said. “President Obama’s decision to create and support a sustained NATO intervention has helped bring freedom to millions of Libyans and surely saved countless civilian lives. The United States, the E.U. and the U.N. Security Council should now act together to support a democratic transition and begin transferring frozen assets to the Transitional National Council.”

Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (Md.), the top-ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said that the rebels’ move into Tripoli marked “the beginning of the end” for Gaddafi.

“From the very beginning, I said Gaddafi was a ruthless terrorist with no respect for human life who could strike again,” Ruppersberger said. “Our actions in Libya protected America’s national security as well as security worldwide. ... As we move forward, the international community must ensure a peaceful transition where the will of the Libyan people is heard. We must also ensure radical extremist groups do not take control of the country.”

Like House intelligence committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Ruppersberger also warned that “Libya has a large stockpile of chemical weapons and explosives that must not fall into the wrong hands.”