Capitol Hill Hearings To Delve Into Libya Mission

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Thursday's hearings are expected to be dominated by questions about President Obama's decision to begin military action in Libya without congressional approval. Top Pentagon and State Department officials testify before several panels, making the case for military and diplomatic action.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer in for Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Members of the Obama administration make their case to Congress today on military involvement in Libya. The secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will testify before House and Senate committees. NPR's David Welna reports that the most vocal criticism of the Libya operation is coming from Republicans in Congress.

DAVID WELNA: Republican lawmakers, especially those with strong Tea Party ties, have generally given President Obama a thumbs down on his handling of Libya. Kentucky's Rand Paul faults Mr. Obama for not having sought permission from Congress before ordering air strikes.

Senator RAND PAUL (Republican, Kentucky): To me it's an amazing thing, an amazing thing that we would do this so lightly without any consideration by this august body - to send our young men and women to war without any congressional approval.

WELNA: The Obama administration did send some top officials to the Capitol yesterday to give lawmakers classified briefings on Libya. Both the House and Senate heard from Defense Secretary Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, who chairs the House Tea Party Caucus and is weighing a presidential bid, remained deeply skeptical.

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota): How in the world are they going to reach their ultimate military objectives if there aren't boots on the ground? I don't want to see U.S. boots on the ground. I don't want to see United States arms. I don't want to see United States involvement at all in Libya.

WELNA: But that's not how California House Republican Dana Rohrabacher sees it.

Representative DANA ROHRABACHER (Republican, California): I've from day one given this administration fairly high marks on the way it's handled this crisis. I'm not like the Republicans who are just seeking a way to be critical of President Obama.

WELNA: Rohrabacher, like many other lawmakers, thinks Congress should have a debate and a vote on the Libyan intervention, even if it's after the fact. Today's hearings could, in effect, be the beginning of that debate, one that divides Republicans and some Democrats as well.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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