President Barack Obama is asking Congress to support what he’s calling a “shot across the bow” at Syria. Sen. Roy Blunt is among those saying he will not support the resolution. Blunt says he respects President Obama’s position as Commander in Chief and agrees with him that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is a threat to his own people.
“Assad’s chemical attacks on his own people were abhorrent, and I join the President in condemning his actions,” Blunt said in a conference call with reporters. “It is clear that the Administration’s policies toward Syria have not worked. The refugee problem has destabilized the region, and the addition of outside radical groups increases the likelihood of long-term danger for Syrians and their neighbors.”
Blunt says says he doesn’t support the President’s strategy, and would like to see the administration lay out clearer policies and goals. He says Obama’s stance is contradictory to what he said earlier, which is that Assad must be removed from power. For now, Assad has accepted the Russian plan to turn over its chemical weapons.
“During the first months of the insurgency, I believed that we could and should assist in establishing a safe zone for refugees and those challenging Assad,” Blunt says. “This is a position I publicly held as late as March of this year, but the longer these things are allowed to drag on in the Middle East, the harder they are to impact in a positive way. I respect the President’s responsibilities as Commander in Chief. In this case, the President has asked the Congress to support very specific tactics and strategies. He has asked Congress to endorse a ‘shot across the bow’ and has said that Assad will stay in place while a political solution is sought, which stands in contrast to his statement more than two years ago that Assad must ‘step aside.’ I’m not convinced that the President’s strategy lines up with the policy goals our country should have, or that the Administration currently has realistic policy goals in Syria.”
Missouri’s Republican delegation in Congress joins Blunt in opposing a strike on Syria; most of the state’s Democrats have not responded.
Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Office told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she was undecided.
“McCaskill … normally an Obama loyalist ‘is wrestling hard with a decision’ and has yet to make up her mind, a spokesman said,” reports the Post-Dispatch. “The president phoned McCaskill on Friday to make his appeal, the spokesman acknowledged.”
Blunt says he, too, weighed the decision heavily. Both he and McCaskill are members of the Armed Services Committee.
“After careful consideration and a number of briefings on this topic, I believe this strategy and the unknown response it may provoke are the wrong thing to do, and I will not support the resolution the President has asked for,” Blunt says.
Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer says his vote is also a “no.”
“After attending the classified briefing and reviewing the relevant information and facts presented by administration officials, I do not believe the president has made the case for military intervention,” Luetkemeyer says. “At this time, I am not convinced that there is an imminent threat to our country and our national security interests. The majority of the people in the 3rd Congressional District also have made it clear they oppose military intervention in Syria as well. After careful deliberation, I have reached the conclusion that I cannot support a resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria.”
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who represents Missouri’s two largest military installations, issued a statement saying her constituents also do not support a military strike.
“I have previously stated that I have concerns about the President’s plan to strike Syria, and have yet to be convinced that military action against the Assad regime is in the interests of the United States,” she says. “Our conference call has further solidified my deep reservations as 97 percent of participants expressed opposition to our involvement. I thank all the citizens of our district who called in or who have expressed their feelings through telephone calls, emails, letters, and faxes to our offices in Washington and throughout the district. I value the input and will consider all the comments my office has received as I have the opportunity to cast MO-4’s vote in this critical time.”
AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:29)