WASHINGTON — Responding to growing concern among war-weary constituents about the purpose and cost of the U.S. mission in Libya, senators are poised to debate whether to send President Barack Obama a message that he needs to be more specific about his goals there.
Obama defended his policy Tuesday during a joint news conference in Washington with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But on Capitol Hill, senators returning from a 10-day Memorial Day recess reported that their constituents want Congress to examine more closely the U.S. involvement in Libya, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq.
The House last week approved a measure requiring Obama to report back to Congress on Libya by later this month. In a vote last month, it turned back by a 215-204 margin a bid to expedite U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Libya is the immediate Senate concern, and on Thursday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to discuss legislation that will test Obama's Senate support.
The president made it clear Tuesday that he's not backing down in his effort to oust Gadhafi. "The chancellor (Merkel) and I have been clear: Gadhafi must step down and hand power to the Libyan people," he said.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are pushing a measure to express Senate support for the U.S. military mission in Libya.
Panetta backs troop cuts: CIA director Leon Panetta, tapped to be the next defense secretary, said Tuesday that he supports a "responsible" withdrawal from Afghanistan beginning next month, avoiding questions on whether he backs the "significant" drawdown the president has pledged. Panetta faces more questions about the war from senators at his nomination hearing Thursday. The Associated Press said his comments came in a Senate questionnaire that he prepared for the hearing.