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Area congressmen discuss military action against Syria

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2013 12:00 am

The United States Senate took a crucial step Wednesday toward authorizing a punitive strike on Syria but deep reluctance was evident in the House, where lawmakers questioned whether the U.S. was in danger of being drawn into another Middle East war.

President Barack Obama, who announced Saturday that he would seek legislative backing for military action in response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, sought to raise the pressure on Congress as well as U.S. allies, warning that their reputations were at stake.

Here are statements from Lodi-area Congressmen Jerry McNerney and Ami Bera:

Jerry McNerney

The office of Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, released the following statement on Wednesday about the congressman’s position on the possibility of the United States conducting a military strike against Syria:

“The Congressman continues to review the information and monitor the situation. The decision to use military force is a serious one. He will make a final decision after a House floor debate concludes and the details of the authorization bill are known. He believes that President made the right decision in seeking congressional approval.”

Ami Bera

Congressman Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, participated in a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing Wednesday, where he questioned Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about the goals and objectives of the proposed plan in Syria.

“It is of critical importance that we are having this discussion,” said Bera. “I applaud the President for including Congress in this debate. I agree that we have to show resolve and we have to show that we are committed to our allies, but my constituents and I still need to be convinced, not that atrocities occurred—we all are unanimous in our condemnation of what Assad has done — but we need to know exactly what our goals are and our objectives, because this is increasingly a complex situation.

“... When I was home in Sacramento County this past weekend people were stopping me in the grocery store, my neighbors were pulling me aside on the street. I think all of my colleagues have been inundated with phone calls, emails, and almost unanimously, people don’t want us to strike Syria. They’re fatigued. And I answer to these people. These are the people that I represent. My question, Secretary Hagel, is what can I tell my constituents about why these strikes are in our national security interest? ... How do I effectively communicate what the plan is?”

Hagel responded that he understood the responsibility Bera has to the people he represents, and that the potential for chemical weapon use to become a “norm ... jeopardizes our country, our homeland, our troops, our people all over the world.”

Bera’s district includes Herald.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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