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US role in Libya mission: Top Democrats say Obama got it right

Top Democrats in the Senate and House back Obama's commitment to help enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, and accept his assurances the US role as mission leader would be brief.

By Staff writer / March 23, 2011

President Barack Obama answers question on the ongoing situation in Libya during his joint news conference with President Mauricio Funes in San Salvador, El Salvador, Tuesday. With rank-and-file members of Congress casting doubt on the US role in Libya, high ranking Democrats back Obama's decision, saying he got it right.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Washington

With Congress in recess, the response on Capitol Hill to President Obama’s decision to commit US forces to a new mission in Libya has been sporadic, mixed, and mainly from rank-and-file members.

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But top Democrats on Wednesday rallied behind Mr. Obama’s decision to support the enforcement of a UN-authorized no-fly zone and avoid a massacre of Libyan civilians.

“Actions taken by the international community have already prevented Qaddafi from implementing his threat to ‘show no mercy’ to his own people, including those living in the city of Benghazi,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

On the Senate side, majority whip Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois, Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Jack Reed (D) of Rhode Island, a member of that panel, praised the president on Wednesday for moving forward with support from the international community, especially the Arab League and the United Nations Security Council.

“The president reminded us that we'd move forward in this action with the support of the Arab League,” Senator Durbin said in a conference call on Wednesday. “It may have taken a few extra days, but I think most would agree – I certainly would – that I think that was a very prudent course of action for the president and for our nation.”

He predicted that the White House will find bipartisan support for the Libya mission when the Senate returns next week.

Wednesday’s expressions of support followed criticism from some GOP conservatives and antiwar Democrats that the president had exceeded his constitutional authority in taking the nation into combat without congressional authorization.

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