Freshman Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising star within the GOP who has been embraced by the Tea Party movement, has sent a letter to the Senate leadership calling on Congress to authorize the use of military force in Libya with the goal of ending the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
Rubio writes that he is seeking support for a congressional resolution "authorizing the President's decision to participate in allied military action in Libya," one that "should also state that removing Muammar Qaddafi from power is in our national interest and therefore should authorize the President to accomplish this goal."
Rubio argues that regime change is necessary because if Qaddafi remains in power and is able to terrorize his people, "it will provide a blueprint to repressive regimes across the Middle East in the use of force against unarmed civilians."
"The world is a better place when America is willing to lead," he adds. "And American leadership is required now more than ever."
The letter shows Rubio "taking on those in his own party who wish to distance themselves from what they consider Obama's war in Libya," according to William Kristol, the influential editor of the conservative Weekly Standard.
"This is a striking bid by a freshman senator to exercise foreign policy leadership, in the face of opposition from some in his own party and reluctance by the Obama administration," adds Kristol.
President Obama has beenfor not sufficiently consulting with Congress or seeking congressional approval before authorizing military action in Libya. On Wednesday, Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur said his decision to intervene without consulting Congress was " " and reflected a "premeditated" effort to silence lawmakers. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a staunch opponent of the intervention, planned to spend an hour Thursday making a case against the action on the House floor.
Among the Republicans who have objected to the Libya intervention areReps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ron Paul (R-TX). "Unless there's a clear and present danger to the United States of America, I don't think you use U.S. forces in North Africa in what is the equivalent of a civil war," said Chaffetz. Others, like Sen. John McCain, have called on the U.S. to go further than it has so far and arm Libyan rebels.
The partisan lines have been muddled on Libya, with Republicans questioning the endgame in the intervention in much the way Democrats have regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. One likely Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, has seemed to contradict himself in his take on the situation.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg were all testifying before Congress on the Libya question Thursday.
Rubio's stance is particularly notable in part because of his alliance with the Tea Party. While the movement has been less than unified on the question of the Libya action, which is costing the United States hundreds of millions of dollars, there has been some clear opposition. Dan Eichenbaum of Tea Party Nation suggested that Mr. Obama was intervening inappropriately in a civil war.
"At this crucial time, our national focus must be on our catastrophic national debt, the crippling and demoralizing unemployment, and a failing economy burdened by onerous governmental regulation," he wrote. "We cannot afford to be distracted by another unconstitutional war or, worse yet, a prolonged, expensive, and likely futile exercise in nation-building in the Middle East."