Minnesota lawmakers staking out stances on Syria


As White House officials press their case for a military strike in Syria, Minnesota's lawmakers are staking out their stances.

MPR on Wednesday lists them in five columns: for, against, undecided, leaning for and leaning against.

On Tuesday, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., joined Reps. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., and Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., in voicing opposition for a strike. Peterson issued this statement:

"What's going on in Syria is deplorable, but at this point, I don't see how U.S. military action will accomplish anything toward ending the turmoil over there or helping the people of Syria, which is my main concern. Along with my constituents, I am opposed to intervention. I am willing to listen to the President and others, but I haven't heard anything at this point that will change my mind."

President Barack Obama on Saturday said he wants to launch a limited strike in Syria, but he is first seeking the authorization of Congress. The Obama administration is making a case that the Assad regime in Syria had used a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 rebels and civilians last month. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee on Tuesday evening negotiated language that would set a 60-day deadline for military action in Syria, with one 30-day extension possible, USA Today reported.

Meanwhile, Nolan, who reportedly got into a heated exchange with Secretary of State John Kerry on a conference call on Monday between administration officials and House Democrats, said he has been invited to a private one-on-one meeting with Kerry.

Bachmann has said she "adamantly" opposes a strike in Syria.

About 200 protesters who also oppose military action picketed U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's office in Minneapolis Tuesday afternoon, MPR reported. Klobuchar was in Duluth on Tuesday, but her aides chatted with protesters, MPR reported. Klobuchar said she welcomes Minnesotans' views on Syria. She has said Obama's request is "too broad."

Rep. Erik Paulsen, said the request was “too broad, too open-ended, too risky," WCCO reported. WCCO also has collected statements from Minnesota lawmakers on Syria.

KARE 11 reports three Minnesota lawmakers have not committed to a specific stance on Syria: Rep. Tim Waltz, Rep. John Kline and Rep. Betty McCollum. Walz on MPR on Tuesday said he was talking to constituents and not finding much support for a strike. In a statement Sunday he said, "The use of chemical weapons is despicable and there is a moral responsibility to defend the defenseless, but we cannot rush into this decision."

McCollum in a statement Tuesday said, “Without final legislative language to consider it is impossible for me to commit at this time to support or oppose President Obama’s request for Congressional authorization for military action targeting the Syrian regime.”

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., has said he supports Obama's intent to launch a strike in Syria.

Sen. Al Franken has said a chemical weapons attack cannot be ignored and "there have to be consequences for that." He added, "Whatever action the United States takes, it has to be limited action. This can’t be an open-ended commitment."

Meanwhile, Syrian refugees continue to flood into neighboring counties, at a rate of 5,000 a day, many heading into Jordan. The Star Tribune has the story of 24-year-old Nicholas Vangen-Weeks, of Minneapolis, who left Tuesday for a monthlong job assisting refugees with the Minneapolis-based American Refugee Committee.

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