WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expects the Senate to soon debate and vote on the conflict in Libya, although he is refusing to go as far as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and accuse President Obama of possibly violating the War Powers Act.
"I think the Senate is going to have a debate and is going to vote on something, and presumably that would relate to getting some kind of presidential approval of some sort," he told reporters in a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, pointing to a measure offering bipartisan support for the mission by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
"I wouldn't say I have been uncharacteristically quiet [on Libya]," he added. "I was just simply paying attention to one of my senior members [McCain] who knows a whole lot about the subject."
On Sunday, McCain also rebuked members of his own party for supporting "isolationist" foreign policy positions, such as the end to the conflicts in Libya and Afghanistan.
In a recent interview with Politico, presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty added, "I don't like the drift of the Republican Party toward what appears to be a retreat or a move more towards isolationism."
McConnell said there were differences in his conference about when to use military force, but he played down how new this posture was, admitting that there's probably some partisanship at play in Republicans opposing the president on foreign policy.
"I'm not sure that these kinds of differences might not have been there in a more latent form when you had a Republican president, but I do think there is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side," he said. "So I think some of these views were probably held by some of my members even in the previous administration, but party loyalty tended to mute them. ... I think a lot of our members, not having a Republican in the White House, feel more free to express their reservations."
Obama is scheduled to address the nation at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday with an announcement about the beginning of troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. He is expected to announce an initial drawdown of 5,000 troops, followed by another 5,000 by the end of 2011.
"I'm having a hard time reacting to something I don't know will happen yet," responded McConnell when asked by The Huffington Post about these drawdown numbers. "I'm assuming what he will say tonight, Gen. [David] Petraeus approves."
"We've got a lot of tough sledding to go up in the east, near the Pakistan border," McConnell added, "but I'm reasonably confident Petraeus is on board for this. If he is, then I think I would be comforted. I have a lot of confidence in him. I think his strategy in Iraq clearly worked. It is working in Afghanistan."
WATCH McConnell on isolationism:
WATCH McConnell on Afghanistan:
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more