President Obama has defended U.S. involvement in Libya, saying the international operation has protected thousands of people in the North African country.
Obama said he did not violate the War Powers Resolution, a U.S. law that requires congressional approval within 60 days if U.S. forces are involved in hostilities.
He said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was threatening to massacre his people, and the United States, as part of an international coalition, took out Libyan air defense systems so humanitarian assistance could be provided. He said pressure is increasing on the Libyan leader, or as he put it, “the noose is tightening.”
He said he addressed the American people on Libya and briefed members of Congress and has done “exactly” what he said he would. He said the operation is limited in time and scope, and there have been no U.S. causalities and no risk of additional escalation.
He said the narrow mission has been carried out in “exemplary fashion.” But he said questioning whether he needs congressional approval for the mission has become a popular topic among some lawmakers.
Keeping Pressure on Al-Qaida:
Obama says the United States will continue to keep pressure on al-Qaida, even as U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan.
The president said 33,000 U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan within a year. Those troops were sent to the country as part of a surge Mr. Obama announced in December 2009. The United States currently has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama told reporters Wednesday the United States is drawing down its forces in a responsible way. He said the “tide of war is receding” and that the U.S. has shifted to a “transition phase.” He said that will allow Afghanistan to defend itself and give the U.S. the operational capacity to continue to put pressure on al-Qaida until it is defeated. He said the terror network is already severely crippled.
He said the drawdown comes after 10 “very long” years of war.
Separately, on Libya, he said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi needs to step down to ensure the safety of Libyans.
The U.S. Economy:
Meanwhile, Obama has called on Congress to take action that he says would strengthen the economy and help Americans who are struggling financially.
President Obama said the nation’s economic problems will not be solved immediately. He said Americans are still looking for work, or seeking better-paying jobs or ways to pay their bills.
He said Congress can send him a bill that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to patent a new idea, and approve trade agreements that he said would support “tens of thousands” of American jobs. He said he wanted to continue tax cuts for the middle class, but eliminate some tax breaks for richer Americans in order to raise government revenue.
Obama says any agreement to reduce the nation’s deficit is going to require “tough decisions,” including decisions on what he called “spending in the tax code” by eliminating some tax benefits for the wealthy.
The president called reducing the deficit one of the most important and urgent things the U.S. government can do for the economy.
He said he believes Republicans and Democrats can bridge their differences and reach a deal that will require the government to live within its means.
He urged lawmakers to “seize this moment and seize it soon,” saying that nobody wants to put the creditworthiness of the U.S. in jeopardy or see the U.S. default on its government debt, which officials have warned may happen if Congress does not raise the government’s debt limit.
Obama has called for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.
The president said the country needs a system that upholds the law, while also upholding the nation’s tradition as a land of immigrants.
He said border security and employment verification need to be addressed. And he said there should be a pathway to legal status for some of those in the country illegally, including young people who live here now, and who were brought to the U.S. by a parent or someone else.