Most Capitol Hill lawmakers from Nebraska and Iowa welcomed President Barack Obama’s decision Saturday to seek congressional authorization before launching a military strike in Syria.
But none endorsed the president’s position that the United States must respond militarily to the reported use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
Rep. Lee Terry
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., said last week he was opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria based on the information he had then. In a statement Saturday, Terry said he was pleased Obama decided to seek approval from Congress.
“I want to be clear that the use of chemical weapons is wrong,” Terry said. “But I believe the use of military force should only be used when the security of our country, or that of our allies, faces a clear and present danger.
“In the case of Syria, I’m reluctant to involve the U.S. military in the civil war in Syria because we don’t have friends on either side of this conflict. I look forward to reviewing the evidence of the threat to U.S. security.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sounded a skeptical note about the administration’s case for military intervention, but he said lawmakers should return quickly to debate the matter.
“I’m dubious but willing to listen,” Grassley said.
“Given the urgency expressed (last) week by the administration, Congress ought to return (this) week to consider a resolution, rather than waiting. The questions are ‘What is the goal of a military strike? How will civilian casualties be avoided? What is the strategic plan? And how will success be measured?’”
Sen. Deb Fischer
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., a member of the Armed Services Committee, has participated in two Syria briefings via telephone, said spokesman Joe Hack. “She believes the president’s decision to wait for congressional authorization is appropriate,” Hack said. “She maintains that any use of military force must fit into a broader, coherent foreign policy strategy with a clear purpose and well-defined goals.”
Rep. Adrian Smith
Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., also welcomed the president’s decision, said spokesman Rick VanMeter.
“Congressman Smith is very concerned about the ongoing conflict in Syria and believes the use of chemical weapons is a clear violation of international law,” VanMeter said.
“This is a challenging situation, and the congressman appreciates the president’s decision to seek congressional approval for the use of force.”
Rep. Bruce Braley
Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, said the president made the right move in seeking congressional authorization. Braley urged House leaders to call Congress back immediately to begin the debate.
“Before putting American lives at risk and spending millions of taxpayer dollars, we must be confident that any American involvement in Syria serves our national security interests first and avoids getting the United States involved in an open-ended military commitment,” Braley said.
Sen. Mike Johanns
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., last week expressed support for a “strategic, targeted response” to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Johanns issued a brief statement: “I expect the administration and Congress to work together as this situation continues to develop, and the president must fully explain his actions to the American people.”
Other Midlands voices
Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, had no comment, but his office reiterated his position that Obama needs congressional approval. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., were not immediately available for comment.
In Omaha, a group of protesters gathered at 72nd and Dodge Streets to oppose U.S. military action in Syria.
Stephen Horn of Blair, Neb., an Army veteran with Veterans for Peace, and 12 other people extended their weekly hour of protest to two hours because of Syria, and more people joined them.
World-Herald staff writer Christopher Burbach contributed to this report.