The top-ranking Republican on homeland security issues in the House said he would support President Obama if he had to request more money from Congress to continue U.S. military operations in Libya.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, stressed that the U.S. needs to “take out Gadhafi” but that Obama needs to tell lawmakers exactly what the White House’s end-game scenario is going forward.
As Congress continues to deadlock in its arguments over the federal budget and spending plans, with Republicans attempting to slash billions more than Democrats want, the issue of how to pay for any continued U.S. military action against Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi is highly likely to be launched to the forefront of debate next week.
Prominent liberal Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) have vehemently objected to spending money on U.S. military action in Libya, saying that Obama should be pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan and not committing the U.S. to another military engagement.
“It is costing us $6.5 billion a week in Afghanistan,” said Woolsey on CNN. “The very thought that we would start investing in a war in another country makes my stomach ache.”
And Kucinich has promised to introduce an amendment in the coming weeks that would ban the use of any federal money for military actions towards Libya.
The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the one week since it began bombing pro-Gadhafi Libyan forces, according to most estimates, with some saying that the cost to the U.S. has already reached $1 billion. The majority of that money, officials say, comes from funds that have already been appropriated for the military to use.
But the financial backing for any long-term action by the U.S. towards Libya will have to be addressed by Congress. King and a growing chorus of lawmakers from both parties have criticized Obama for not consulting them about the White House’s plan of attack and whether the goal of U.S. military action is to remove Gadhafi from power or to try and stop the killing of Libyan rebels.
Obama has been rapidly trying to defuse congressional concern, saying in his radio address on Saturday that the U.S. would have a limited military involvement in Libya going forward. On Friday, Obama held a meeting with lawmakers in which he laid out some details of his plan, and he is scheduled to give an address to the nation on Monday.
Earlier this week, NATO agreed to take over the no-fly zone over Libya, which the U.S. had been enforcing up until that point.
King also said that the U.S. is more vulnerable to an attack since it began its military campaign to quell Gadhafi’s war with Libyan rebels who are protesting his rule after more than 40 years in power. But that was no reason for the U.S. to stop bombing pro-Gadhafi forces, King argued.
“We can't back down just because the enemy may threaten to attack us back,” said King.
“And I know that our homeland security forces have upped their efforts here, that they are monitoring carefully. It's more likely if he does attack, it could be in Europe. But again, we have no evidence of it. But the presumption is that we certainly have to be ready in case that he does.”