Members of Congress Talk Syria on Capitol Hill

Posted: Sep 02, 2013 11:33 AM
Members of Congress Talk Syria on Capitol Hill

The President announced his intent to use military force in Syria on Saturday, but Members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican alike, are still unsure of which direction to take.

Numerous Senators and Representatives took to Sunday morning news shows to share their take on the President’s recent decision. Sen. Rand Paul is the among the most outspoken critics and discussed his perspective with David Gregory on MSNBC’s Meet the Press:

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Sen. John McCain, a proponent of a very different view, also spoke yesterday morning to CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation:

And in a rare return to Washington during the August recess, over 70 Representatives and Senators reportedly made their way to the U.S. Capitol yesterday for an afternoon intelligence briefing from White House Aides.

For many, the briefing left more room for concern than certainty.

Buzzfeed reported hearing from Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) and Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), among others.

Rigell, a leading member in the letter to President Obama requesting Congressional approval on military action, said, “It is a broad document and given the specificity with the president has been speaking on this, it is a little difficult to reconcile what he’s asked for with the document that is now before us.”

Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jim Himes, said, “I’m still very skeptical about the President’s proposal. It is not clear to me that we know what the result of this attack would be, or whether it will be effective. And in that room, there’s a lot of memories of another time when the president’s people came in and said they had slam-dunk intelligence and that’s not an episode most members ever want to repeat.”

NPR reported that Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) found the White House’s plan to be “a partial blank check the way it's currently drafted,” and that Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) was not sold.

"I just think back to what General Eisenhower said in 1954,” Burgess told reporters after the briefing. “That was a pretty rough year for him. He said you shouldn't go to war for emotional reasons. And right now, I think it would be in response — it would be an emotional response. And that probably is not a good enough reason."

Many members left the briefing echoing the sentiment to narrow the White House proposal.

According to Politico, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) stated, “We want to make sure that any authorization is structured, is framed, so that it is very clear we are talking about a targeted, discreet response to the use of chemical weapons.”

He reportedly continued by saying that the Congressional votes would be considered “votes of conscience.”

“I don’t think matters of military action lend themselves to whipping as a party,” Becerra said. “These are singular votes.”

Former Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was quoted saying, “People want to know that there’s not going to be a military engagement, entanglement, like in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m looking forward to reading more about the resolution that’s going to be drafted — what the goals are, the national security objectives, what happens the day after.”

Although House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) were both spotted attending Sunday’s intelligence briefing, House leadership has been pointedly quiet since the President’s announcement, saying only this in a joint statement released on Saturday:

“Under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress. We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised. In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th. This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people.”

Adding Syria to the already delicate to-do list of passing a Continuing Resolution and dealing with the debt limit, only further complicates issues for a divided Congress. Out for another week, members will have to hit the ground running upon their return on September 9th.

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