By Mike Lillis - 03/29/11 08:08 PM EDT
President Obama's prime-time explanation for sending U.S. forces into Libya failed to convince GOP leaders of the operation's merits, a leading House Republican said Tuesday.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Obama simply failed to clarify the ultimate objective underlying his decision to intervene in the violent uprising against the longtime Libyan dictator, Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
"All that relates back to defining what success is going to be here," he added. "There are all kinds of unanswered questions right now."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among the administration officials scheduled to brief House members on Wednesday. White House officials will also appear Thursday before both the Senate Armed Services and House Foreign Affairs Committees. James B. Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, will testify before the House panel. Witnesses have not yet been named for the Senate gathering.
Cantor said he's hopeful those meetings will help lawmakers "begin to get some clarity" about the ultimate goals of the Libyan offensive. One question the Virginia Republican will be asking is who exactly are the rebel forces the Pentagon has been helping.
"What about the rebels?" Cantor asked. "Who is it that we're going to see step into the vacuum if it were to be created by Gadhafi's exiting?"
Obama's decision to enter Libya came in the midst of an 11-day congressional recess. Obama took to the airwaves Monday night with a prime-time, televised explanation for his decision – reasoning that hinged largely on the moral argument against leaving civilians to die at the hands of Gadhafi when the U.S. had the power to prevent it.
"To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are," Obama said. "And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."
After roughly a week of leading the international forces, the U.S. military ceded the task to NATO on Sunday.
Meanwhile, critics of the Pentagon's intervention are pushing legislation to pull U.S. forces out of the fray.
Sponsored by Reps. Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the bill would cut off all funding related to the intervention until Congress authorizes it.
"Constitutionally, it is indisputable that Congress must be consulted prior to an act of war unless there is an imminent threat against this country," Johnson said last week in a statement. "The President has not done so."
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is a co-sponsor.