WASHINGTON — Maine’s U.S. senators are critical of President Obama’s course of action in Libya, and the state’s U.S. House members aren’t overly enthusiastic supporters, either.

The state’s four members of Congress are not fans of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and they don’t question the gravity of the humanitarian crisis that has been unfolding in Libya.

But as military action continued Tuesday, Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said, “President Obama needs to better explain to the American people the extent and duration of U.S. military involvement in Libya.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she is “troubled that the president did not seek congressional consent prior to ordering an aggressive military action when there is no national emergency for our country.

“The United Nations resolution is not a substitute for a vote by the United States Congress,” she said.

Collins met Gadhafi during a congressional delegation’s trip to the Middle East in 2009. She said she believes the U.S. military role regarding Libya should be limited to intelligence and logistics, and that Arab League states should lead enforcement of the no-fly zone.

Snowe said that although U.S. military leaders have indicated the military action in Libya will soon be led by a coalition of allies, not the United States, the administration has not fully defined its strategy.

She said the White House must offer more specifics about U.S. involvement, including the role the Arab League nations will play in military operations and the potential impact on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Snowe said Obama also should ask U.S. allies to pay their share of the cost of enforcing the no-fly zone and other military operations in Libya, which she said could be more than $100 million a week.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, the Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st Congressional District, said she has had “huge humanitarian concerns about what has happened in Libya.”

But, she said, “I also don’t want to see this turn into another open-ended war with no exit strategy.”

The United States should not continue to be front-and-center in Libya, Pingree said.

“It’s important to realize that this is a multinational effort, and it’s very important to me that, after this initial stage, countries like France and Italy step up and take the lead,” said Pingree, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, called Gadhafi a “tyrannical dictator” and said he is a strong supporter of establishing a democracy in Libya.

But he said he has “serious concerns that U.S. military intervention is being undertaken by the president without the approval of Congress, an alarming trend in recent years which the War Powers Act was supposed to prevent. I am, however, pleased that U.S. ground troops have not been committed and that this is being undertaken by a strong multinational coalition.”

Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:
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