After President Obama gave his speech on Syria last night, there was a scramble to get reaction from the region's congressional delegation, and fit it into the tight space in this morning's Spokesman-Review. We wound up with a shortened version of the reaction. For a fuller version of their comments, go inside the blog.
Giving Syria a chance to resolve the crisis over its use of chemical weapons through diplomatic means is better than the military option – if it works, Idaho Sen. Jim Risch said Tuesday night after President Barack Obama’s address to the nation.
“It was a strange speech. The situation is so fluid and moving so quickly,” said Risch, a Republican.
It relies on Syria, which two days ago denied even having chemical weapons, surrendering them, and Russia, which isn’t living up to a treaty limiting its chemical weapons, applying pressure, he said.
“It’s good that the Russians got the Syrians to talk about this, but they should eventually step aside and let a credible organization take control,” he said.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., remains undecided on the resolution, which has been delayed.
“I believe we must carefully pursue the potential for a diplomatic solution,” she said after the speech.
“It will be critical in the days ahead that we allow the administration the time needed to engage in discussions that could bring the global community together to address the horrors of chemical weapons use.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell also pushed for a diplomatic solution.
“The United States should redouble efforts for a diplomatic and political solution in Syria,” she said. “Getting U.N. Security Council action supported by Russia that would allow Syria's chemical weapons to be collected and destroyed. As this process continues, I encourage the administration to push for Kofi Annan to resume his role as the UN’s special peace envoy to Syria.
“I would strongly prefer a diplomatic and political solution to both Syria's possession and use of chemical weapons and to end the Syrian civil war. I appreciate the President's decision today to ask to delay a vote on military force. We now need to give the administration time to see if diplomacy and the Russian proposal can work. I will be watching Secretary Kerry's upcoming meeting with Russia's foreign minister closely.”
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said the case still hasn’t been made for using American military force.
“The United States should engage in military strikes against another nation only when our national security requires it, after other options have been ruled out,” Crapo said. “And, when our national security interests justify military action against another nation, the action should be carefully designed and effectively implemented to achieve our security related objectives. The national security interest necessary to justify this intervention has not yet been sufficiently shown. And the limited, narrow response being proposed is more likely to harm, rather than protect our security interests.
“The prospect of a negotiated resolution of this matter has been raised, involving Syria agreeing to join the 189 nations of the world who have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. Of course, we should pursue this option, but let’s not forget with whom we are dealing. Any such resolution must necessarily involve Syria disclosing all of its chemical weapons, immediately allowing their removal and destruction and allowing ongoing inspections to assure compliance. Such an agreement must be prompt, binding, verifiable and subject to predetermined sanctions for noncompliance.”
“I will continue to engage in this debate in the Senate, review the intelligence material and listen to Idahoans before casting any vote on this matter.”
On Tuesday before the speech, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, announced he would vote no on the resolution.
“I gave the Administration a chance to make their case, but they couldn’t make it,” said Rep. Labrador. “Nothing they said changed the fact that we are not the police force of the world, we don’t have any compelling national interest in Syria, and it’s doubtful that an alternative government in Syria will be any better than the current one. While no one doubts that Bashar al-Assad is a brutal dictator, it’s very likely that removing him power will embolden al-Qaeda and other terrorists.
“We also can’t rule out the possibility that - despite the Administration’s assurances - a Congressional authorization to use force against Syria will lead to the use of U.S. ground forces. After our experience in Iraq, I couldn’t think of anything worse than putting our brave servicemen and women in harm’s way to police a civil war in a land in which we have no vital interests. Better options are available, and will should use them.
“I will vote ‘no’ on any Congressional authorization to use force against Syria, and I will encourage my colleagues to do the same.”
Some members of House Republican leadership, including Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, previously announced support for military action. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Spokane, remained uncommitted, although a spokeswoman said Monday she was moderating discussions among members and planned to announce a position later this week.