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(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Sen. Orrin Hatch says Colorado's legalization of small amounts of recreational marijuana could prove a big setback for inititatives to combat drug abuse.
Every Utahn in Congress says ‘no’ to Syria strikes

First Published Sep 10 2013 07:38 pm • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:34 pm

Washington • Utah’s members of Congress are now unanimously opposed to a military strike against Syria after Sen. Orrin Hatch announced his reservations late Tuesday.

He made his feelings known just after President Barack Obama told the nation in a prime time address that he wants Congress to postpone a vote to let new negotiations in the United Nations proceed.

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While Hatch hopes a diplomatic solution emerges, he unleashed some heavy criticism of Obama’s handling of the affair sparked by a chemical weapon attack on civilians outside of Damascus, which the administration believes was perpetrated by the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Utah’s senior senator said the president was not only thinking too small by calling for a limited missile strike, but he also failed to explain how his plan would stop future poisonous gas attacks.

"While the president may have decided to delay a congressional vote authorizing military action in Syria, the core question remains: what is the president’s long-term strategy not only in this war-torn country but for the entire region?" Hatch said in his first detailed statement on the issue. "What is clear is that launching a few missiles will do nothing to end Syria’s civil war and is neither a real strategy to stop the deployment of chemical weapons in Syria nor a guarantee that chemical weapons won’t be used in the future by the Assad regime."

Hatch joins a broad bipartisan swath of Congress that has already expressed its concerns about the president’s plan.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, along with Utah Reps. Jim Matheson, a Democrat, and Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, quickly announced their opposition to the president’s position, shortly after Obama asked for a vote in Congress. They were followed by Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart, both Utah Republicans, who said Monday they didn’t support the use of force.

Hatch remained undecided until he heard the president’s pitch in a private meeting with Senate Republicans earlier Tuesday.

In that meeting and in another one with Democrats, the president asked senators to keep the threat of force alive to maintain pressure on Syria and its ally Russia, with the hope of getting Assad to hand over the nation’s chemical weapons.

That’s similar to the message Chaffetz received from Vice President Joe Biden in a 90-minute meeting at the White House early Tuesday.

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"Kudos to the vice president for inviting me to the meeting. I have no idea why I was invited, but I’m glad I was," Chaffetz said. "I haven’t changed my position. He didn’t ask me to. But he did ask me to keep an open mind, and I assured him I would."


Twitter: @mattcanham

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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