Both parties have Obama on defense over Libya
On President Obama’s first full day back in Washington after a five-day visit to Latin America, the White House mounted a strenuous defense of U.S. military action in Libya, saying that most lawmakers’ questions about the operation have been answered.
House Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday sent Mr. Obama a list of more than a dozen questions ranging from how Col. Moammar Gadhafi will be removed from power if regime change isn’t part of the U.N. no-fly-zone resolution to what the criteria are for recognizing a new regime. On Thursday, the administration promised to brief lawmakers next week.
But White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the president thinks he has fulfilled his duty to consult with Congress on military action, saying Mr. Obama kept lawmakers properly abreast of the situation even as he took urgent action to prevent a humanitarian disaster.
“Had we waited for Congress to get back, there is no question, I think, in anybody’s minds - in our military, in our foreign policy establishment, national security establishment or in the minds of reporters who covered it on the ground — that Gadhafi’s forces would control Benghazi and there would have been a great deal of people killed in the process,” Mr. Carney said.
The White House has pushed back vigorously against suggestions — pouring in from both sides of the aisle - that its interaction with lawmakers ahead of Saturday’s announcement of military action has amounted to more of a notification than a consultation.
But the questions have continued to grow.
“I think it’s important that the president give us and all American taxpayers an accurate answer on this issue,” the third-term lawmaker wrote. “I will always stand with people fighting for freedom and democracy around the world, and I know both President Obama and Speaker Boehner would, too. But America has to address many important challenges right here at home - with spending as the most critical one.”
Late Wednesday, Rep. Tom McClintock, California Republican, sent his own letter to the president arguing that federal law specifically prohibits taking military action in accordance with a U.N. authorization unless Congress specifically has approved it.
The White House has said it is confident the president is acting within the law, and Mr. Carney said the cost of the action can be accommodated without needing to seek additional spending from Congress, though he could not provide an estimate.
Mr. Boehner’s office announced Thursday evening that the administration next week will hold a classified briefing for lawmakers on Libya, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, at Mr. Boehner’s request.
Mr. Obama discussed the military action in Libya at several public appearances during his trip to Latin America but did not speak publicly on the matter Thursday. Mr. Carney’s briefing was held off-camera.
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