A growing group of House members, including two Utahns, want a say in a potential U.S. military strike against the Syrian government in retaliation for the alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of civilians.
Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Chris Stewart, R-Utah, were two of more than 116 signers of a letter urging President Barack Obama to obtain congressional authorization before going forward with the limited missile strikes that he is considering.
The White House says it has yet to make a decision on a response and will consult with congressional leaders, though the administration has given no indication that it would seek a vote on the military action.
Matheson, one of 19 Democrats to sign the letter, said Congress has a responsibility to be involved in such a decision and while the chemical attack in Syria is “horrific,” he worries about the potential scope of any strike. He wants it to have a clear goal that avoids a long-term entanglement in the protracted civil war that has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths.
“It is not clear to me yet what that defined mission would be,” he said.
Stewart said he signed the bipartisan letter sponsored by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., to protect the nation’s separation of powers. He gave no opinion on whether a military response to the alleged chemical attack is warranted.
“It only urges President Obama to consult and receive authorization from Congress before using any sort of U.S. military force in Syria,” Stewart said.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is continuing to review evidence of the chemical attack but he says the brutal fighting there is not a threat to U.S. national security.
“I do not support military intervention,” he said. “Before taking action, the president should first come present his plan to Congress outlining the approach, cost, objectives, and timeline and get authorization from Congress for his proposal.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hasn’t called on Obama to get congressional approval but he has said the president needs to make an appeal directly to the American people.
“Make no mistake about it, the situation in Syria isn’t easy,” Hatch said. “But that doesn’t mean the president doesn’t have a responsibility as commander in chief of the most powerful nation in the world to lead. It’s time the president deliver a prime-time address to the nation explaining what is happening.”
Utah’s other two members of Congress, GOP Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, have not taken a position on a potential military strike against Syria.