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POLITICS: PennAve

Democrats vow to vote their conscience on resolution to bomb Syria

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Congress,House of Representatives,Syria,PennAve,Sean Lengell

Congressional Democrats on the fence regarding President Obama's call for military action in Syria say their conscience — not party loyalty — will steer their votes.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland said that while his support for Obama will factor into his decision, "it's not as much a part of it as you may think."

The lawmaker added that many in his Baltimore-area district — which voted overwhelmingly for Obama in last year's election — have taken a similar position.

"One lady said [to me yesterday], 'I disagree with my husband, but I love him to life.' And so, you know, you're going to have those disagreements" with the administration, Cummings said after Obama officials briefed members of Congress behind closed doors at the Capitol.

"We all have to, I think, look at this not just in a vacuum of what's happening today, but what's going to happen with regard to future generations."

Cummings suggested the memory of the prolonged Iraq War is holding many lawmakers back from fully supporting the president's plan for limited airstrikes in Syria — at least for now.

"The main thing that a lot of [members of Congress] are concerned about is that they look at what happened with regard to Iraq. And that's in the DNA of every cell of their brains because it's so fresh," the Maryland Democrat said.

"They know that we went into Iraq on some inaccurate information. And I can tell you that they then, I think, hold this president and future presidents to a higher burden of proof as to going into these kinds of situations."

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the decision of whether or not to bomb Syria "is not about a party position."

"These are votes of conscience. There isn't a Democratic position," she told reporters.

"Every member here will have to come to their own conclusion about what direction they want to do. As a vote of conscience I will listen, I will read, I will take every opportunity to … get questions answered and then I make my own decision."

DeLauro said the White House hasn't contacted her directly to lobby for the president.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., in a rare chat with reporters, said he was leaning toward supporting the White House initiative but added, "There were no really good options here.

"I've attended 12 hours of briefings now and listened to everybody's take on this. To me, there is enough evidence there has been a chemical weapons attack and it was authorized by the [Syrian] regime, and I believe you have to demonstrate you can't do that."

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., who supports taking military action in Syria, dismissed the notion that a "no" vote by Democrats would undermine Obama politically.

"We need to take each challenge on its own," he told reporters. "He was right to say to the Congress, 'you need to participate.' So I think we need to discuss this on its merits."

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Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner