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POLITICS: PennAve

House Intel Committee not swayed by Obama on Syria

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Members of the House Intelligence Committee, who have seen more classified information about the situation in Syria than most other lawmakers, are still reluctant to support a military strike there, an indication of just how daunting a task President Obama faces as he ramps up efforts to get Congress to approve a war resolution.

Not even Obama's fellow Democrats are convinced that it's in the nation's interest to retaliate against Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people. None of the nine Democrats on the intelligence committee have backed him publicly.

“While the congresswoman supports the Obama administration, she remains undecided on the president’s request,” said Hillary Beard, a spokeswoman for Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., who serves on the panel.

Republicans are slightly more supportive of Obama.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and two other committee Republicans — Reps. Peter King, of New York, and Mike Pompeo, of Kansas — support military intervention in Syria. But a Washington Examiner survey of committee members shows that those may be the only votes the White House has on the key panel. Most members, including the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, said they were either opposed or undecided.

One Republican committee member, Rep. Devin Nunes, of California, is working with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, on an alternative resolution that would require the administration to redouble its diplomatic efforts instead of striking militarily.

Six committee Republicans confirmed their opposition to the Examiner and a seventh was classified as opposed by the Washington Post. The office of Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, declined to discuss the congressman’s position on Syria. Republican opponents include traditional hawks like Nunes and Rep. Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota, plus Reps. Mike Conaway, of Texas; Frank LoBiondo, of New Jersey; Jeff Miller and Tom Rooney, of Florida; and Lynn Westmoreland, of Georgia.

“At this point, I oppose taking military action in Syria,” Rooney said in a statement. “On one side is [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, who has joined the ranks of history's most evil despots, and on the other side we have rebels that have been infiltrated by al Qaeda. Unless something changes, I will work to keep the United States out of Sunni-Shia civil war in Syria.”

Minds could certainly change.

This week, with Congress reconvened after a long summer recess, Obama is stepping up his lobbying effort. The administration was scheduled to hold multiple closed-door briefings for members on Monday as it continues to make it case for military action.

The president was scheduled to tape a half dozen network television interviews on Monday and plans to address the American people Tuesday evening. Obama is a devoting a considerable portion of his hard sell to turning around the broad skepticism expressed by congressional Democrats, which is considered crucial if the president has any hope of moving his Syria resolution through Congress in the face of strong public opposition.

“The congressman is deeply skeptical about any U.S. involvement in Syria," said a spokesman for Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., "but he remains open to all arguments.”

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Author:

David M. Drucker

Senior Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner