West Virginia officials respond to Syria situation
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's congressional delegation remains largely undecided about whether the United States should intervene in Syria, even though top officials from both parties have expressed support for military action.
President Barack Obama on Saturday announced he would seek the approval of Congress before taking action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of using chemical weapons to kill more than 1,400 of his citizens including hundreds of children.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced their support of the President's plan on Tuesday.
Congress watchers originally expected the Republican-led House of Representatives would be a stumbling block for Obama's plans to attack Syria.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also supports U.S. intervention
Three of West Virginia's five representatives on Capitol Hill indicated Tuesday they still have not made up their minds, however.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., spent part of his Labor Day weekend in West Virginia, but returned to Washington late Monday to attend briefings on the situation in Syria.
Congress currently is in recess. Most members remain in their home districts, but are expected back in the nation's capital next week to vote on Obama's proposals.
Spokeswoman Katie Longo said Manchin also is talking to foreign affairs experts both inside and outside the government, is discussing the issue with his colleagues in Congress and also wants to hear from constituents before making a decision on Syria.
His office set up a special email address for citizens' thoughts on Syria, syriaopinions
Manchin also was spotted attending a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on Tuesday. He is not a member of the committee, but appeared to be listening intently as Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made their case for an attack on Syria.
While Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. has not issued a public statement on Syria, spokesman Andrew Beckner said the state's senior senator is closely following developments there and is reviewing information provided by the White House.
"He has focused on Syria throughout the conflict, particularly in recent months, and is in close contact with top advisers," Beckner said.
"The senator firmly believes that any vote to authorize the use force of must be based on careful consideration of all the facts, as well as a full vetting of the accuracy of the underlying intelligence."
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she believes Obama made the right decision by asking Congress for approval. She said she will consider information provided by intelligence officials on Syria's actions, but also wants to hear from her constituents on the issue.
"I stand ready and willing to come back to Washington, D.C., at any time to consider the evidence and participate in the debate," Capito said.
Rep. Nick Rahall, a Democrat, and Rep. David McKinley, a Republican, seem to have made up their minds on Syria, although they share vastly different opinions.
McKinley said while the use of chemical weapons against civilians is "unconscionable," he said the U.S. should not get involved in the conflict.
"America should only take military action when there is a clear national security interest at stake, as well as a clear endgame. I'm not convinced that is the case here," he said.
McKinley said he would continue to review information on Syria and listen to debates, "but right now I am not comfortable putting Americans in harm's way."
Although Kerry said Tuesday putting American troops in Syria is not off the table, few officials in Washington have mentioned invading the country as an option. Most recommend an airstrike against prime Syrian military targets.
Rahall has said since last week he supports a limited strike in the country.
He said the resolution sent to Congress by the White House provides President Obama too much flexibility in Syria.
"Any Congressional authorization for the use of military force must adhere to the Constitution and ensure we are not giving the president a blank check," he said. "It should be a justified, proportional strike against sites of high value from which the chemical warfare was launched."
More than 100,000 people have died and millions displaced from their homes since Syria's civil war began in 2011, when an attempt began to overthrow his brutal regime.
Although Obama said he believes the U.S. needs to issue a limited strike in Syria, and believes he has the authority to do so without congressional approval, he said "the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective."