Boehner To Obama: Please Provide Clear Answers on Libya

March 23, 2011 3:22 p.m.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is demanding detailed answers from President Obama on the scope and objective of U.S. military action in Libya and his plans for removing Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi from power if he does not voluntarily step down in the next few days.

In a letter (read it here) to the White House sent Wednesday afternoon, Boehner asks Obama to outline the “scope, objective and purpose of the mission in Libya and how it will be achieved.”While Boehner said he respects Obama’s authority as commander-in-chief and supports the troops, he accused Obama of failing to clearly define for the American people and Congress the mission in Libya and and the United States’ role is in achieving that mission.

“In fact, the limited, sometimes contradictory, case made to the American people by members of your Administration has left some fundamental questions about our engagement unanswered,” he wrote. “At the same time, by contrast, it appears your administration has consulted extensively on these same matters with foreign entities such as the United Nations and the Arab League.”

Specifically, Boehner asked Obama to square his statements that Qaddafi “must go” with the U.N. resolution that mentions nothing about regime change.

“In light of this contradiction, is it an acceptable outcome for Qaddafi to remain in power after the military effort concludes in Libya?” he asked. “If not, how will he be removed from power? Why would the U.S. commit America resources to enforcing a U.N. resolution that is inconsistent with our stated policy goals and national interests?”

Boehner also wanted to know how much the military action would cost, which allies would be taking the lead after the U.S.-led air strikes this week, when that would occur and whether there were clear lines of authority and a chain of command. If the coalition of allies dissolves, will the U.S. military step up its role, and if so, how long will that continue, he asked.

“The American people deserve answers to these questions,” he concluded. “And all of these concerns point to one fundamental question: what is your benchmark for success in Libya?”

The letter was sent to the White House while Obama was flying home from a trip to Latin America. It did not call for a vote in the House or Senate authorizing U.S. military action in Libya, as some of Boehner’s colleagues have demanded.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have griped about the level of consultations between the White House and Congress before the air strikes began. Sen. Dick Lugar (IN), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has criticized Obama for failing to seek Congressional approval. Lugar issued a release late Wednesday calling on Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and early on voiced support for military action in Libya, to immediately schedule hearings on the Libyan war.

“I noted a newspaper story today that cited one of your spokesmen as saying that there are no plans for hearings on Libya,” Lugar said in the release. “That statement may not accurately reflect your own intent. But I wanted to make clear that I believe prompt hearings on Libya in our Committee are essential.”

Obama held a conference call with top congressional leaders Friday apprising them of his plans.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the assistant majority leader, earlier Wednesday said he felt he and others in Congress were fully informed and was impressed that Obama spent an hour out of his day on Friday, when the strikes began, on the phone with congressional leaders answering their questions.

Durbin, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) held a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon defending Obama’s handling of the crisis in Libya and his efforts to build an international coalition of support for military action before launching air strikes.

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