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Libya intervention: Tea party and liberal Democrats make unusual allies

On Capitol Hill, the Libya intervention has elicited antiwar voices from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Their point in common: The power to make war resides with Congress.

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Since the attacks, congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have emphasized the need to limit the scope of the US role in Libya. “With the full and unprecedented backing of the Arab League and the United Nations, US forces, along with our allies, are enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. I support this limited, international action,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, assistant majority leader and a member of the foreign relations panel. “I also agree with President Obama; no US ground forces should be used in this operation and it must remain limited in scope and duration.”

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Ensuring limited scope

At issue for House Republican leaders, who so far are speaking with one voice on this issue, is ensuring that the scope and purpose of the mission remain limited. "The president is the commander-in-chief, but the administration has a responsibility to define for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is, better explain what America’s role is in achieving that mission, and make clear how it will be accomplished," said Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio, in a statement on March 20.

“The speaker supports the efforts of our troops, but this administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about the scope and purpose of our mission in Libya, America’s role, and how it will be achieved,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, in an e-mail.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) of Florida, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the president to “clearly define for the American people what vital United States security interests he believes are currently at stake in Libya.” “Deferring to the United Nations and calling on our military personnel to enforce the 'writ of the international community' sets a dangerous precedent,” she said in a statement.

On the Senate side, Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana had called for a declaration of war by the Congress before any military action in Libya. Failing that, the president now needs to clarify the mission. “Now, the president has been very clear; no American boots on the ground, no ground troops, no American aircraft over Libya. … But we really have not discovered who it is in Libya that we are trying to support,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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