Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) is holding one of the first town halls on Syria tonight in his Missouri district. As the phone lines on Capitol Hill burn overwhelmingly against action against military action in Syria, Cleaver has been less than enthusiastic about President’s Obama push for military action.
“I would vote no,” Cleaver told a local TV station days ago when asked whether he would support military action.
“I’m not sure that it makes senses for us to engage in Syria primarily because we’re ignorant in the Middle East,” Cleaver told KSHB TV on Sunday. “We make dumb decisions. We supported the ouster of the President of Egypt only to see the military ultimately take over. We supported Saddam Hussein. We have a long list of making ignorant decision about who we support,” he added.
Though the Congressional Black Caucus has not taken an official stance, the going bet is that the 41 voting members will vote a collective “no” on military action in Syria. Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge hasn’t chimed in yet. But her silence coupled with a “let’s wait and see” from House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) isn’t exactly a vibrant display of enthusiasm. Sure, there are a few “YES” votes — noteably from Reps Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) but they are the exception not the rule.
“While I applaud the President’s efforts to reach out to Congress, any proposal to be voted upon should enumerate clear-cut objectives, should be thoroughly debated, and should keep in mind the full consequences of increased military action in the Middle East,” said Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) in a statement today. Bishop is one of the CBC’s more conservative members and a ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, that he’s not burning with enthusiasm on military action is noteworthy.
“Whether Syria poses a national security threat, either immediate or long term, is what the president and the secretary of defense have to address,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said in an interview with the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. Lee sent a letter to the White House with 60 of her colleagues signed on and called for a full congressional debate on the situation. Days after, President Obama announced he would do just that. Sixteen members of the 43 member Black Caucus signed on to Lee’s letter warning of an “unwise war.” The signatories included CBC Chair Fudge.
Freshman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) reference a feeling heard on Black talk radio over the last week. That is, that money that would be used to attack Syria would be better spent here in the U.S. on domestic problems. “There are two major considerations to take into account,” Jeffries told the New York Times, “The prestige of an administration we strongly support versus an open-ended conflict in the Middle East that risks the lives of the people we represent if war were to break out. Not to mention the diversion of resources back into our communities that sorely need it.”
More underwhelming reaction on Syria came from Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY). On MSNBC on Monday, Rangel said, “I love Obama and you’ll never find a truer Democrat than me but this whole idea of any president of the United States drawing lines saying that if any country does something that he considers wrong, that the nation is going to war, it’s unheard of, drawing a red line,” Rangel said. “So, of course, it’s embarrassing,” he added.
The issue of congressional authorization and the War Powers Act has also been mentioned as a concern by many members. After attending a classified briefing on Sunday, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) said, “authorization is required by the War Powers Resolution and the Constitution when there appears to be no imminent threat to American citizens or assets,” in a statement.
Several members are waiting to see what exactly the Syria resolution will read. Another classified briefing for House members on the situation will be held on Monday.