Congress May Consider Narrow Syria Authorization

4:01 PM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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By Brian Tumulty and Steve Orr, Gannett 

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's broadly drawn request for congressional authorization to take military action against Syria won't pass the Senate unless it's more narrowly drawn, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

"If it's not narrowed, it won't pass," Schumer said during a visit to the rural community of Chili outside of Rochester.

Schumer and Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand both favor limited military action that would not involve U.S. ground troops operating in Syria as a response to President Bashar al-Assad's apparent use of chemical weapons in the country's civil war.

"Congress should consider limiting the duration of any military action it authorizes in that country,'' said Schumer, vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference. "That is one of the things to be considered. And I would support a time limit."

Another New York Democrat favoring a limited military response is Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Engel has said Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons constitutes a war crime that deserves a military response.

New York Republican Rep. Tom Reed of Corning this morning joined GOP Rep. Chris Gibson of the Hudson Valley in opposing U.S. military intervention in Syria. Gibson announced his opposition over the weekend.

Reed told reporters he supports sanctions against Syria and an effort to bring Assad to the negotiating table with Syrian rebels. 

Reed is planning to hold listening sessions in his Southern Tier congressional district to allow constituents to weigh in on the possibility of military action.

The House and Senate won't return until next week to vote on military action against Syria, but relevant committees are holding hearings this week.

The first hearing is being held today by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are scheduled to testify.

Republican Rep. Chris Collins of the Buffalo area and Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney of Cold Spring in the Hudson Valley were among the lawmakers who returned to Washington Sunday for a classified briefing on Syria.

"Before Congress authorizes military action of any kind, I want to see more details from our commander-in-chief and military leaders and hear the thoughts of my neighbors in the Hudson Valley,'' Maloney said today. "The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and requires a unified response, but we cannot engage in another ground war in the Middle East."

Collins, who like Maloney is serving his freshman term, hasn't decided how he will vote.

Most members of Congress have not returned to Washington.

Gillibrand and Rep. Grace Meng, D-Queens, are part of a congressional delegation visiting China, Japan and South Korea that won't return until the weekend.

Schumer was visiting Buffalo, Ithaca and Chili to discuss local issues, including the planned placement of a power transmission line over a farm. 

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