Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today on the U.S. role in Libya. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery and a link to the video:
“‘America must Lead; we must not equivocate. Such a course would encourage the enemies of peace, the bullies of the world….People around the world look to our country’s strength in their struggle for democracy and basic human rights.’
“As it happens, I first said those words in 1999. American troops were on the way to Kosovo to protect civilians—and at the same time, Congress was voting to undermine their mission. We are in a similar place today.
“In recent months, people across the Middle East have bravely stood to demand that their governments respect their fundamental rights. The Libyan people, who have been subject to the dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi for more than four decades, were among those who insisted that enough was enough. Gadhafi responded by unleashing widespread violence and threatening countless lives—publicly promising to go ‘door to door’ to kill those who stood against him.
“In response to this threat of violence, the European Union, the Arab League, the United Nations Security Council, and a unanimous NATO all called for action to protect Libyan civilians. The United States is participating in this action both in order to prevent brutal attacks against civilians, and in order to stand by our NATO allies. President Obama has made clear from the beginning that our allies needed to take the leading role in Libya, and NATO has done just that.
“And to this point, the campaign against Gadhafi has proven successful: his exports of oil have ceased; he is running short on funds; cabinet and military officials continue to defect from his regime; China has just hosted the Libyan opposition; and the opposition controls eastern Libya and is making progress in the west.
“I believe that the wrong decision today will significantly compromise that progress. A sudden withdrawal of American support for the mission would strengthen Gadhafi’s hand and increase his confidence that he can wait out the rebellion against his rule. It would put civilian lives at risk. It could potentially stall the growing movements for democratization across the Middle East. And it would severely undermine our NATO alliance. As we all know: if we want our allies to stand by us in our time of need, in places like Afghanistan, we have to stand by them in places like Libya. We are either in an alliance, or we are not.
“I do believe that President Obama could and should have done a better job of consulting with Congress at the outset of hostilities. I do believe that our armed forces are engaged in hostilities.
“But I also believe that, since the passage of the Boehner resolution, the president’s consultation with Congress has been comprehensive and respectful of Congress’s role and responsibility.
“I will vote for Rep. Hastings’s resolution, which authorizes our continuing action in Libya, while insisting that Congress opposes the deployment of American ground troops. And I will strongly oppose the resolution offered by Rep. Rooney, which would cut off funds for American military action in Libya, and would significantly undermine NATO’s mission.
“I urge my colleagues: protect our valuable alliances and the principles of human rights that they safeguard.”