Durbin, Levin, Reed Support Libya Mission

Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:13pm

Top Senate Democrats on Wednesday backed President Barack Obama’s decision to authorize military action in Libya and predicted the Senate would vote down any effort to end U.S. involvement.

In a conference call with reporters, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (Mich.) and Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) praised Obama’s handling of the situation, including his plan to quickly hand off primary responsibility for imposing a no-fly zone to other nations and his vow not to include ground troops.

“The reports are positive,” Durbin said of the intervention, which began Saturday.

Durbin said international support for the no-fly zone — including backing from the Arab League and the United Nations Security Council — is reminiscent of President George H.W. Bush’s formation of a broad coalition to push Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait in the first Gulf War.

Bush, however, sought and won a vote in Congress prior to launching an invasion of Kuwait. Obama has yet to seek a Congressional vote endorsing his decision to help impose the no-fly zone, which the U.N. Security Council authorized last week. Several Democrats and Republicans have said in recent days that they think Obama’s actions violate the Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to declare wars.

But Levin noted the limited nature of the conflict and the support of the international community, and he said he would expect bipartisan support in the Senate for the Libya mission if the chamber were to vote on it.

“If we had proceeded unilaterally, we would not have had the political support around the world, which is essential,” he said. “Without that support, you run into a situation where you’re going to have huge opposition, including in the streets of the Arab world, against what we’re doing.”

The War Powers Act gives any Senator the right to bring a privileged resolution to the floor to end U.S. involvement in a conflict, Durbin noted.

Meanwhile, the Senators said they weren’t sure how much the conflict would cost or how it would be paid for.

Levin also said he supports moving a separate defense spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year if Congress is unable to reach a deal on domestic spending prior to the April 8 deadline to avoid a government shutdown. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has warned he will not support any more short-term spending bills that do not also include a defense spending bill that covers the remainder of fiscal 2011.