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Rep. Scott Rigell: Obama should seek authorization from Congress about Syria

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2013

The pressure is building on President Obama to let Congress do its job by debating the nation's potential involvement in a strike against the Syrian government.

Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell said Thursday that 150 members of the House, including 18 Democrats, have signed onto a letter he sent this week to President Obama asking him to let Congress debate — and possibly sign off on — his desire to use military force in Syria.

Mr. Rigell, a Republican, said that it would be a "sign of strength, not weakness" if the Obama administration slows down the decision-making process and follows the Constitution.

"There is no imminent threat. We have not been attacked," he said during an appearance on WAVY-TV 10 in Portsmouth, Va. "The Constitution makes clear in my view that he really has to come to Congress and receive, not just consultation, but specific statutory authority before engaging U.S. troops."

The Obama administration was reportedly considering launching strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad as early as Thursday, in response to the government's suspected chemical weapons attack against citizens in a suburb of Damascus.

The Syrian regime denies that it used chemical weapons on its people.

The international support for a strike, though, has showed sings of stalling out.

The Washington Times reported Wednesday that there is also some hesitation on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers appear to be more interested in how the nation can do more to arm moderate rebels fighting to oust Mr. Assad.

A growing number of lawmakers, meanwhile, say that before any U.S. military action is taken, the president needs to make a full case to Congress and a public that has grow weary of war and entanglements in the Middle East.

The New York Times also reported Thursday that British officials are signaling that they will wait to see the findings of a United Nations weapons inspectors who have been collecting evidence over the past few days.

Mr. Rigell said Thursday that he shares Mr. Obama's conclusion that the the Assad government used chemical weapons on citizens and said he has had a constructive conversation with a White House liaison about the options being considered by the administration.

Mr. Rigell, though, said that Congress should debate the strategic objective of a strike and weigh how deeper U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war will unfold over the coming weeks, months and years.

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