Where Does Your Congressman Stand on Syria?

Mother Jones

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On Saturday, President Barack Obama announced that he would ask Congress for an authorization to use military force in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack in Damascus that killed more than 1,400 civilians. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–Ohio) quickly scheduled a vote for the week of September 9th, after Washington returns from August recess. But will the measure pass? Here’s a quick guide to emerging factions on Capitol Hill.

The Republican Anti-Interventionists: Led in the House by Congress’ only member of Syrian ancestry, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, and a growing cohort of allies like North Carolina Rep. Walt Jones and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, who previously sought to block military aid to Syrian rebels. (Amash’s response to Obama’s announcement Saturday: “Thank you, Mr. President.”) They’re likely to argue that any military action without authorization from Congress is unconstitutional—and any military action with authorization would simply waste American resources. On the Senate side, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced their opposition last week. Paul fretted that a “piddly attack with a few cruise missiles” would only worsen the conflict and possibly threaten the security of Israel. They are joined by Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who says “there is still no compelling national security impetus for American military involvement in a civil war in the Middle East.”

The Democratic Doves: Best represented (unsurprisingly) by Florida Rep. Alan Grayson. He’s skeptical of US intel on the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons—and even if he were convinced, he still wouldn’t support American military intervention. “There is nobody in my district who is so concerned about the well-being of people in Syria that they would prefer to see us spend billions of dollars on a missile attack against Syria than to spend exactly the same amount of money on schools or roads or health care,” he told Slate. “Nobody wants this except the military-industrial complex,” he also said. Also, on Saturday, right after President Obama wrapped his speech calling for a vote in Congress, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) went on CNN to say there is still no reason to place Americans “in harm’s way” over the Syria conflict. (Rangel expressed similar concerns in this June USA Today op-ed.)

The GOP Maybe-if-You-Ask-Nicely-Caucus: New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte endorsed military strikes in Syria on the condition that Obama first seek the support of Congress. Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told constituents that “we cannot simply allow Assad to continue this unthinkable brutality against his own people,” but insisted that congressional approval is a necessary step. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the number-two Republican in the upper chamber, expressed skepticism at the idea of intervention but would not rule it out entirely—provided he had a chance to vote on it. Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell and several dozen colleagues wrote a letter to the White House last week demanding a Congressional referendum without making any promises on how he would vote.

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Where Does Your Congressman Stand on Syria?

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