Democratic Rep. Engel to Obama: ‘Talk to Congress’

By Kristina

Mar 24, 2011 2:45pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

President Obama’s decision to use military force in Libya has been met with bipartisan blowback, with even some of the president’s allies criticizing him for not consulting with members of Congress more extensively.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel — who has voiced support for the president’s actions — told us the president may be acting beyond his constitutional responsibilities if the US continues to lead operations beyond “the first week or so.” 

Asked if the president is acting within his authority, Engel, D-N.Y., told us: “I think he has if we get out in a fairly quickly way. I think if this is something that's prolonged and we are around for weeks and months, then I think not. But everything that the president has indicated to me is that we expect to be in and out very quickly.”

Engel, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he’s concerned that a mission that started out well-defined might grow “murky” now that the initial objective of imposing a no-fly zone has been achieved.

“I think it sort of takes on a life of its own, unfortunately,” Engel said. “I think we're limited to the fact that, No. 1, we want to protect civilians in that was extensively the reason we went in, and I think that was a good reason for going in.”

“The other hand — and the big question that is really kind of left out there as the game is played — is what happens to Gadhafi? Is part of the mission regime change? To get rid of him? That's a little murky. That's a little unclear.”

“It seems to me that if we go in and we prevent him with a no-fly zone which I and others have called for, if we prevent him from murdering his own people do we just leave him kind of lying there so that when we pull out he can move back in? That really troubles me a bit.”

The president should better define the nation’s mission, Engel said. That means having to ask Congress for approval “at some point.”

“I think the president, as I said, as this goes down should speak to the American people. I know he already has. Also I think needs to come to Congress and talk to Congress. I think that Congress could give him a stamp of approval for doing this. Congress obviously has powers that we take very seriously.”

“And as I said, if it's just something that's going to last a few weeks, then I think the president acted properly. But if it's something that we feel is going to be bogging us down for weeks and months then I think the president has to at that point come to Congress.”

Engel also said GOP criticism of the president has been largely disingenuous.

“Right now we should all rally around the president. It really is disheartening for me to see my Republican colleagues criticize the president and say he waited too long, or he shouldn't have gone, or he's out of the country. Whatever they can think of to criticize him, they do it. But when President Bush was leading the war in Iraq they kept saying that everyone should rally around the president in time of war.”

Also today, we featured Jonathan Karl’s interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., in an Iowa edition of the “Subway Series.” 



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