Congressional delegation approaching military action cautiously
“When the Assad regime decided to rain chemical warfare on more than 1,400 people, including 400 children, it became a matter of national security.” Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans
WASHINGTON – Most of the Louisiana congressional delegation is hesitant, if not outright opposed, to backing military strikes on Syria in reaction to charges that country used chemical weapons on civilians.
President Barack Obama is pushing for limited military strikes without putting soldiers in the country, saying that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, went too far with the use of chemical weapons in the country’s ongoing civil war.
Obama is asking for congressional approval. The U.S. House and Senate could vote as early as next week. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution supporting limited military action on Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, is the only member of the Louisiana delegation definitively opposing any military intervention thus far. But both U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said they are leaning toward voting against military action.
Others say they are taking a wait-and-see approach until they are presented with all of the evidence next week. Boustany said he is planning to attend some of the classified briefings on Friday.
“I’m deeply skeptical of anything we can achieve with military action,” Boustany said, arguing that this is a “complex civil war” involving numerous factions, including some terrorist groups and others backed by Iran.
“If I had to vote right now, I’d vote no,” Boustany said. “The burden of proof is on the administration.”
While proponents of military intervention argue it is needed to maintain the nation’s strength and credibility, Boustany said it would show weakness to approve a few airstrikes without any “political endgame.”
“The last thing I want to do is to fall into a trap with this,” he added.
Alexander expressed similar opinions in an email response.
“At this time, I do not feel it is in our best interests to take military action,” Alexander stated. “However, I would like to be equipped with all possible knowledge, and until next week after briefings and a thorough congressional debate, it is premature to make a firm decision one way or the other.”
While no member of the delegation is backing military action yet, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, came the closest to saying something should be done.
“I support President Obama’s decision to engage with Congress as we join the global community to ensure that this grave human offense is addressed,” Richmond said in a prepared statement. “When the Assad regime decided to rain chemical warfare on more than 1,400 people, including 400 children, it became a matter of national security.”
Fleming, however, argued this is not a national security matter while announcing his opposition.
“I cannot condone putting our Armed Forces in harm’s way or committing our military resources to a situation that is so filled with uncertainty and volatility,” Fleming said in his announcement. “Our national security is not under threat from the Syrian civil war and President Obama has shown no clear objective that would be accomplished by launching missiles into Syria. Action by our military could tip the scales in the direction of forces supported by Al-Qaida, which is an avowed enemy of the United States.”
U.S. Sen. David Vitter said he still has a lot of “serious concerns” after participating Wednesday in a classified Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on the topic.
“This classified hearing with the Defense Secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was important and helpful,” Vitter said in an email response. “But the bottom line is I walked into it with serious concerns about the president’s plan and walked out with the same concerns. I’m thinking through these very carefully.”
Others also are waiting for more information before making decisions.
“Using military force in Syria is a serious matter, and the president is correct to seek Congressional approval,” U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said in a prepared statement. “I will carefully examine the facts in the coming days as Congress debates what the appropriate action is.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said Wednesday that he still needs to hear the full case made by the administration. “The president needs to make the case that this is vital to the interests of American safety,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said it is good that Obama is reaching out to Congress, but he withheld any further judgment for now.
“Any action taken by the United States must be carefully considered in terms of what is in the best interest of our nation and our close allies in the region, especially Israel,” Scalise said in a prepared statement. “The authorization to use limited military force should depend on clear military objectives and policy goals, and I look forward to the debate after these details have been laid out by the administration.”