Syria
3:26 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Where St. Louis' Regional Members Of Congress Stand On Action In Syria

Last updated 3:28 p.m. Sept. 16. May be updated further.

As the situation regarding a U.S. military action in Syria continues to change, members of congress from Missouri and Illinois have voiced where they stand on the issue. We have a running list of their opinions and updates for you below.

Current Local Vote Tally:

  • Voting Yes: 2
  • Voting No: 6
  • Undecided/Not Firm: 4

​National Picture: For the latest distributions of numbers in the entire Congress, check out this  interactive graphic from The Washington Post, which will be updated as news surfaces.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri: Voting "No"

Missouri's Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt has issued a statement saying he "will not support the resolution the President has asked for" on military action in Syria.

On Twitter he put it more plainly, saying "I will vote no." 

Blunt says in his statement that he originally supported "establishing a safe zone for refugees and those challenging Assad" but time has changed his perspective:

“During the first months of the insurgency, I believed that we could and should assist in establishing a safe zone for refugees and those challenging Assad.  This is a position I publicly held as late as March of this year, but the longer these things are allowed to drag on in the Middle East, the harder they are to impact in a positive way.

Russia has proposed bringing Syria's chemical weapons under international control, but now the country says it's only possible if the U.S. foreswears the use of military force. Blunt says he's more skeptical of the proposal as the day goes on.

"The more qualifiers the Russians add, the less that will appear to be a realistic proposal as opposed to something that is a realistic alternative," Blunt says. "But I would not discourage the president to see if there's not a way to get those chemical weapons out of this regime." 

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Credit (via Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill)

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri: Vote Undecided

Following President Obama's address to the nation on Sept. 10, McCaskill issued the following statement:

“The President made an important case for why Syria’s use of chemical weapons has serious implications for America’s national security—and that a credible threat of military force can strengthen the chances of a diplomatic solution. But, I also continue to weigh the possible consequences of military action. Over the coming days, I will continue to engage with my colleagues, evaluate classified information, and monitor a situation which continues to evolve on a daily basis.”

Previously, a spokesman for Blunt's Democratic counterpart in Missouri, Sen. Claire McCaskill, told the St. Louis Beacon on Aug. 30 that McCaskill "believes that the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its own people crosses a line that endangers all nations, and that it’s appropriate for the United States, in conjunction with our allies, to respond in a manner that is deliberate and proportional."

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illnois.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illnois.
Credit (Elena Schneider/Medill News Service)

 Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois: Voting "Yes"

Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin also voiced his perspective, reiterating the "for" stance he displayed in an initial Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote

“Now that Bashar Assad has used chemical weapons in Syria, now that it has been reported, now that the photos are there to see, and now the pathological investigations are completed – what will the world do? It is time for other to stand up and join us in stopping the advancement and use of chemical weapons once and for all,” Durbin said. 

Full video of Durbin's speech:

Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois: Voting "Yes"

Representative Lacy Clay, Missouri's 1st Congressional District: Vote Undecided

Following President Obama's speech on Sept. 10, Rep. Clay issued the following statement:

"We should exhaust every diplomatic effort to resolve this crisis.

While I remain undecided regarding any future congressional authorization to use force, this much is certain;

President Obama’s strong leadership has opened the door to a potential diplomatic achievement that could remove the threat of Syria’s chemical weapons without firing a shot.

That would be a remarkable outcome that we must make every effort to achieve.”

Representative Ann Wagner, Missouri's 2nd Congressional District: Voting "No"

Rep. Wagner issued the following statement on Sept. 10, saying she will vote "no" on military action:

“After receiving classified briefings from the Administration, I am even more convinced that the president has not made the case for military action in Syria.  The president has no long-term plan, no exit strategy, and continues to project weakness both at home and abroad.  This Administration still has no clear or achievable national security objectives.  As a result, I simply cannot support military action in Syria, as it will only be a punitive strike that will cause more fomenting in the region.”  

Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer, Missouri's 3rd Congressional District: Voting "No"

Rep. Luetkemeyer issued a statement on Sept. 10:

“After attending the classified briefing and reviewing the relevant information and facts presented by administration officials, I do not believe the president has made the case for military intervention. At this time, I am not convinced that there is an imminent threat to our country and our national security interests. The majority of the people in the 3rd Congressional District also have made it clear they oppose military intervention in Syria as well. After careful deliberation, I have reached the conclusion that I cannot support a resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria.” 

Representative Jason Smith, Missouri's 8th Congressional District: Voting "No"

Rep. Smith issued this statement in the form of a guest column in the Southeast Missourian newspaper on Sept. 10. Here it is, in part:

“America’s goal in any war should be to win. To date, President Obama has not been able to adequately define what victory would look like in military conflict with Syria. The best picture painted by the Obama Administration appears to be that of a stalemate. If the administration cannot define victory to the American people, to military leaders or to the troops who will be charged with striking Syria, then we should not use military force.”

“President Obama has not been able to answer questions raised by myself and others about military involvement in Syria. Bashar al-Assad is obviously no friend to the United States, but would toppling his government make the Middle East even more unstable? We do not know if the rebels fighting Assad would be our allies, we do not know if they will respect Israel’s right to exist, if they will tolerate Christians and we do not know if the rebels will defend American interests. If military force is so urgent, where are our allies and why have they not committed to use military force? These questions deserve to be fully answered before American troops are drug into another conflict in the Middle East.”

Representative Bill Enyart, Illinois' 12th District: Vote Undecided

Speaking to St. Louis Public Radio in Southern Illinois on Sept. 16, Enyart says he will wait to make a decision until after talks with Russia play out, but spoke highly of how President Barack Obama has handled the situation: 

“To get them to confess that there are chemical weapons there and to get them to agree to an international accord where the weapons would be turned over would be a remarkable accomplishment. And not one life was put at risk over it.”

Previously, following President Obama's speech on Sept. 10, Enyart issued the following statement:

“I have heard very clearly the overwhelming voice of my constituents in the last 10 days against American military strikes in Syria.  I’m glad it appears we can resolve the situation without the use of force, as I continued to have very serious reservations about the implications of military action on our part. “Even after participating in a 3-hour Armed Services Committee hearing today with Secretary of State Kerry, Defense Secretary Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dempsey, I remain with serious concerns about authorizing military strikes.  Chief among these is that air strikes may hamper ongoing U.S. action in Afghanistan and complicate our supply routes to the troops there. “The President deserves congratulations for bringing the Russians to the table.  Without a strong stance against chemical weapons on his part, they would clearly not be asking the United Nations to intervene and turn over the chemical weapons. “I am pleased to see the Russians pushing the Syrians, who have been a client state for many years, to turn over some two million pounds of chemical weapons.  I want to see their offer brought to fruition quickly. “I’m looking forward to doing my part in Congress to see greater stability and peace brought to the Middle East.  It’s also my hope that our regional allies, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey and others, are reassured that the U.S. will act in a manner to promote peace and stability in the region.”

Earlier, Enyart issued the following statement on Sept. 1, highlighting his military background and saying he would use that background to make his decision:

“After two costly and prolonged wars, there is very little tolerance for another U.S. military operation by the people of Southern Illinois or by my colleagues in Congress,” Enyart said. “If President Obama believes action is needed, he must lay out a convincing case to the American public first.”

...

“As a retired veteran and military commander, I know the costs of war very well,” Enyart stated.  “I want to know what the long-term goals of our involvement would be before our nation commits to any action, and I cannot support any scenario where our troops are on the ground in Syria.”

Representative Rodney Davis, Illinois 13th Congressional District: Voting "No"

Rep. Davis announced his position via a post on his Facebook page:

I returned to Washington today and had the opportunity to attend my first classified briefing on Syria. While I appreciate the Administration's efforts to keep members of Congress informed on the situation, I remain firm in my belief that the President still has not made the case for his plan for military action in Syria. Nothing provided to me in today's briefing persuaded me that it is worth risking American lives to get involved in Syria.

Representative Aaron Schock, Illinois 18th Congressional District: Vote Undecided

A Sept. 9 State Journal Register report says Schock is still weighing his options: 

Davis represents part of Springfield, and U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, represents the rest of the capital city. Schock last week said he was reviewing the president’s proposal and would give “great weight” to that plan and the case the president makes to Congress.

Schock also attended Monday’s briefing and remains undecided, said spokesman Steve Dutton.

“He is continuing to get the facts as well as listen to the case that President Obama is laying out,” Dutton said.


Representative John Shimkus, Illinois 15th Congressional District: Voting "No"

As our colleagues from WSIU have previously reported, Shimkus is firmly against military action in Syria:

Shimkus, R-Collinsville says the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government on civilians is an international issue – one the U.S. shouldn’t take the lead on.

Shimkus also says working to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may only create a power vacuum – leaving numerous opposition groups to battle for control of the nation.

“A lot of those are Islamic radicals that – really – are enemies of the United States," Shimkus says. "Do we empower them to eventually be the ruling authorities in Syria? Do we threaten our allies by getting involved?"

The Collinsville Republican says he’ll vote no on an intervention – even if it means going against House Speaker John Boehner, who came out in support of the plan. 

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