Metro-east lawmakers: Constituents oppose military action in Syria

News-DemocratSeptember 5, 2013 

U.S. House members from the metro-east say their constituents overwhelmingly oppose military action in Syria.

Constituent messages to the offices of U.S. Reps. John Shimkus, Bill Enyart and Rodney Davis continue to express intense opposition to military air strikes against Syria's government in retaliation for a nerve gas attack that killed more than 1,400 civilians last month.

"Our contacts on Syria are almost 100 to 1 against," said Steve Tomaszewski, a spokesman for Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who represents the 15th U.S. House District. "It is our second highest issue for the year so far based on number of constituent contacts."

The U.S. House is scheduled to return from a nearly six-week recess on Monday. But metro-east east lawmakers say they don't expect to vote on a resolution authorizing military action in Syria for at least another two weeks.

The full U.S. Senate is expected to debate and then vote days later on a resolution the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee approved 10-7 Wednesday. The measure authorizes the narrow use of force against Syria. More than 100,000 people have died there from the bloody civil war that began in early 2011.

The U.S. House, instead of drafting a separate use-of-force resolution, will likely debate the Senate version, provided it passes out of that chamber, according to news reports.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, voted in favor of the use-of-force resolution.

In a written statement, Durbin said he hopes the message the measure sends will show that Congress is resolute "when it comes to discouraging and stopping the spread of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction. If the United States did not take this leadership role, I do not know who would."

All three metro-east House members -- Shimkus, Enyart and Davis -- have questioned the need for a military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and have demanded that President Barack Obama make a compelling case for military force.

John Boehner, the U.S. House speaker, has announced he supports Obama's use-of-force resolution, but Shimkus has signaled he is at this point willing to disagree with the House speaker.

"Until I see evidence of a real threat against the United States or our allies or unless the international community reaches a consensus and leads, I am not convinced that a limited strike against Syria at this time is warranted," Shimkus said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Kevin Kern, a spokesman for Enyart, D-Belleville, and Andrew Flach, a spokesman for Davis, R-Taylorville, both reported their offices have received a lopsided number of calls and messages against military intervention in Syria.

"If we had one pro," or call in favor of intervention, "for every 100 against, I'd be surprised," Flach said.

The main reason for the opposition to military strikes?

"I just think a lot of people are fatigued by the wars," Flach said.

Kern, the Enyart spokesman, echoed what Flach said.

At least 98 percent of calls into Enyart's office are opposed to U.S. military action in Syria, Kern said.

The reason: "weariness of war," he said, alluding to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are drawing down after more than a decade of involvement in those two nations.

Two public opinion polls released Tuesday show that Obama's efforts to muster support for air strikes in Syria are facing strong headwinds.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose the use of military force to punish the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday.

A Pew Research Center poll found that just 29 percent of Americans favor military action in Syria, while 48 percent of those interviewed opposed it.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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