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Talking Syria 

What lawmakers have been saying about the president’s plan for military action

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President Obama announced on Saturday that he has decided the U.S. should use military force to “punish” the Syrian government for an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack the White House says killed more than 1,400 people, including more than 400 children — but he will wait for congressional authorization. Members of Congress spent most of the previous week telling Obama any military action should require their approval, and now they face a vote when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 9.

Here’s what local lawmakers said about military action in Syria prior to Obama’s decision:

  • Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, in a statement released Aug. 30: “The use of chemical weapons, as well as conventional weapons, on innocent civilians in Syria is abhorrent and must end. However, as the recent past has taught us, we must be exceedingly cautious in making any decision that holds the possibility of entangling our nation in a long, drawn-out conflict.”
  • Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, in a Tacoma News Tribune article published Aug. 28: “Senator Cantwell has serious questions about the strategic goals of a military strike in Syria and possible outcomes,” Cantwell’s statement said. “She looks forward to hearing more from the Obama administration on its strategy to promote a stable Syria and avoid open-ended involvement in an escalated regional conflict.”
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-WA, posted on Facebook on Aug. 30: “As the crisis continues in Syria, should the President determine military action is necessary, he needs to respect the Constitution and recognize the authority for action in Syria must come from Congress. The violation of human rights and loss of life is horrendous, yet the President must make his case to Congress and the American people before launching any military strike. Keep calling my office to let me know your thoughts.”
  • Sen. Mike Crapo, R-ID, posted on Facebook on Aug. 28: “Syria is a difficult and tragic situation and one that I continue to monitor. U.S. involvement in Syria must be consistent with protecting our national security interests. It is paramount that the President engage in a full dialogue with the American people and with Congress before taking any action.”
  • Sen. James Risch, R-ID, in a Friday interview with the Idaho Statesman, questioned the long-term consequences and whether it was America’s responsibility to interfere: “We shouldn’t just be attacking to be punitive. I have real reservations about this. … What concerns me the most is where are we going with this?”
  • Rep. Raul Labrador, R-ID, in a newsletter statement dated Aug. 30: “What’s at stake here isn’t the wisdom of going to war with Syria — that is a debate that can and should take place — it’s the question of whether the president will follow the Constitution and whether the Congress will demand that he follow it.”
The newsletter statement concludes: “President Obama has yet to make a credible case for action in Syria. The United States — as a free people — should be eternally vigilant against threats to our liberty, both foreign and domestic. But we must do so after robust debate in Congress about the appropriateness of action in Syria and a vote for or against authorization.” 

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