Democratic U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud got it right last week when they crossed party lines and voted with House Republicans to rebuke President Obama for his administration’s conduct in the Libyan civil war.

The resolution, sponsored by the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, calls on the president to refrain from introducing ground troops into the conflict, now in its third month, and to turn over documents that influenced his decision to intervene as part of a NATO-led coalition.

The speaker is right to demand this information, and the votes of Pingree, Michaud and 43 other Democrats give the request the credibility it deserves.

This is not just partisan gamesmanship, but a legitimate assertion of congressional oversight in the conduct of a war.

As congressmen from both parties said last week, Obama has not clearly explained America’s national interest in this conflict and what the goals of our involvement are.

Are we there to prevent a humanitarian disaster, to provide air support for rebel ground troops, or to remove Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi? If we don’t know what the goals are, how will we know when it’s time to go?

These are crucial questions, especially as we look at recent history. We are closing in on the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, and although combat operations have ended in the seven-year-old Iraq war, Americans are still dying — with five killed in a rocket attack Tuesday.

The United States should not be making more commitments to foreign wars without clearly articulating the nation’s goals and complying with the laws that call for congressional oversight in the decision-making process.

“This resolution puts the president on notice,” Boehner said. “He has the chance to get this right, and if he doesn’t, Congress will exercise its constitutional authority and we will make it right.”

The speaker is correct, and the president should listen. In this highly partisan world, where every issue looks like a wedge, this is not simply more political positioning.

As the votes of Democrats like Maine’s Pingree and Michaud should make clear, these are questions that the American people want answered. The president should listen to these voices and answer them soon.The speaker is correct, and the president should listen.