Democratic Senators Levin, Durbin and Reed Throw Their Support Behind President Obama on Libya

Mar 23, 2011 3:39pm

ABC News' Huma Khan reports: In a belated show of support, three U.S. senators today defended President Obama's handling of the war in Libya amid criticism from some that he didn't give lawmakers enough of a notice.

Five days after the president authorized U.S. involvement in Libya, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., praised his approach, saying he moved thoughtfully and with great speed.

“What is changing today is the question about the future of the Arab world… What we are trying to assert are the basic values of our country,” Durbin said. “I think the president has moved with other nations in this regard because of the compelling humanitarian need to stop the slaughter of the Libyan people by their own leader.”

Reaction from Capitol Hill has been mixed. While several Democrats have thrown their weight behind Obama, many lawmakers are staunchly opposed, and Republicans charge that the president overstepped his boundaries by not reaching out to members more in advance.

The senators today skirted the issue of costs, saying there haven’t been any discussions yet of a supplemental bill or including this into the continuing resolution.

“I think that the fact that it’s a multinational operation will… minimize costs for the U.S.,” said Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, when asked where the funding for the operation will come from. 

He said cost estimates that have been published so far are “too inaccurate and too broad” and that he’s asked his staff to work with the Pentagon to get better cost estimates.

“I believe this is going to cost a lot less because we’re going to be the junior partner in a multilateral effort and also I believe there will be some support in terms of costs that are coming from other countries,” he added. “The cost in these first few days will be a lot larger than the cost of supporting our coalition partners after they take the lead.”

On the question of how long the United States might be taking the lead, Levin reiterated the Obama administration’s line.

U.S. involvement “in terms of being the lead in establishing the no-fly zone, I think it’s going to be very very short term. In terms of supporting the continuation of a no-fly zone, I think will be ongoing,” he said.

In terms of actual results, Levin said the strikes have prevented an attack on Benghazi by Gadhafi, “that would’ve led to a bloodbath. That is in itself a huge important part in protecting the people.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Libya next Tuesday.

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