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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio stands firm on Libya

21

June

Sen. Marco Rubio said today he disagrees with a House effort to cut off funding for the Libyan intervention, and reaffirmed support for the military mission that has divided Congress.

"The reality of it is Moammar Gadhafi needs to go, and the day he goes will be a good day for America and a good day for the world," Rubio told the St. Petersburg Times. "We should do what we can to help that come about."

The Florida Republican hedged when asked about President Obama's contention that he does not need Congressional approval, but criticized the president for not engaging early enough, saying it had been "mishandled."

Many House members say Obama is in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution that requires approval of the legislative branch within 60 days, with a 30-day extension. "I think those who are upset with him not coming to Congress have a right to be upset," Rubio said. "I think had he come to Congress in the early days of this engagement, he would have gotten the support that he wanted. I’m not sure why they didn’t do that. But we can’t re-litigate the past."

 

He added: "The reality is what we’re facing now. Moammar Gadhafi's hands are dripping with American blood from years of terrorist activity. His own people want to get rid of them and to the extent that we can afford to help them and can help them, we should. Had the president committed to that early and forcefully, I think this conflict would have been over a long time ago and it would have saved us a lot of money. I think it’s been mishandled."

Rubio supports a resolution, introduced today by Sens. John Kerry and John McCain, that says the president is "authorized to continue the limited use of the United States Armed Forces in Libya, in support of United States national security policy interest" for a year. It would bar putting troops on the ground.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said during a news conference afternoon that there are enough votes to pass the measure and specifically mentioned Rubio's support.

The House this week is expected to vote on a measure to cut off funding. Partly it seems another Republican effort to oppose Obama simply because he's Obama. But there's also genuine sentiment among both parties that Obama has overstepped by not getting approval. The cost is another issue.

"Money should always concern us," Rubio said. "I would argue two things: It would have been cheaper and quicker had we gotten involved earlier and more forcefully, and it's going to cost us a lot more money overall not to be involved at all, over time."

The situation in Libya comes as debate heats up over Afghanistan. Tomorrow, Obama will reveal his plans to bring troops home. In a larger sense, the debate has become one about U.S. military engagement. In one camp, some budget-wary Republicans say the U.S. needs to do less. In the other, traditional hawks say the U.S. has a responsibility to keep order.

"We can’t be engaged everywhere," Rubio said. "As I said in my speech last week, 'We can ignore the world’s problems but the world’s problems aren't going to ignore us.' Now Does that mean America can be involved in every conflict on the planet? No. We have to be strategic and choose those that matter most and the ones where we can make a difference."

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 4:08pm]

    

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