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Lakeland Ledger: Polk's 4 Representatives Oppose U.S. Military Action in Syria
3 Republicans, 1 Democrat Plan to Vote 'No'
By Bill Rufty
LEDGER POLITICAL EDITOR
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013 at 3:39 p.m.
LAKELAND | If President Barack Obama is counting on passage of his request to intervene in Syria, he will have to get it without all four members of Congress who represent portions of Polk County.
The three Republicans and one Democrat said they will vote against U.S. attacks on Syria, which is alleged to have used chemical weapons against rebels and civilians.
"The opposition (to military intervention) is really bipartisan," U.S. Rep Dennis Ross, R- Lakeland, told The Ledger on Monday. "I think there is only a very slim chance that approval can pass."
And even that slim chance became less with a Russian proposal Monday, Ross said.
"The Russian foreign minister has called on (Syrian President Bashar) Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons. The only way this (Syrian civil war) will be settled is to bring Russia, Turkey, Iran and Iraq to the peace table," he said.
Secretary of State John Kerry also has said the weapons could be placed under international control.
Congress returned to Washington on Monday for nine days of work with its biggest task to approve or deny Obama's request for congressional approval for military action against Syria.
Obama will address the nation tonight on the need for action against Syria, but that need has not been seen by a majority of the House on both sides of the aisle.
The entire House met at 5 p.m. Monday for a classified briefing on the situation in Syria by administration officials with little or no change in support.
"I just don't see where they can make a case if you take away the sense of urgency that they originally came out with," Ross said. "But they sent in the A-Team with Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin E. Dempsey.
Ross represents the 15th Congressional District, which includes western and northwestern Polk, including Lakeland, Bartow and Mulberry and portions of Hillsborough County.
Bucking his own party's president, Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has opposed military intervention in Syria.
His 9th Congressional District includes Poinciana, Haines City and northeastern Polk, along with parts of Osceola and Orange counties.
In an interview with The Ledger from a plane en route to Washington on Monday, Grayson said there is "absolutely no way" the president's request will be approved by the House.
"I am not only opposed to it; I am organizing against it," Grayson said. "Four days ago, the House vote was 26 in favor and 226 opposed. In four days, the president hasn't gained a single vote."
The remainder were un¬decided, but it takes only 217 to defeat the president's request.
"This (opposition) is not a question of party, but of national security. It is not our responsibility to act alone," he said.
Grayson said he had more than 100,000 names on his online petition opposing action against Syria.
He also favors that Syria relinquish its chemical weapons, as proposed by Russia and others.
"The proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control has a great deal of merit and, unlike the planned strikes, actually would prevent chemical warfare attacks in the future. ... U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war would be destructive," he said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Punta Gor¬¬da, whose 17th Congressional District includes southern Polk County, Lake Wales, Fort Meade, Frostproof and all or parts of nine other counties, agreed.
"At this point, I oppose taking military action in Syria. On one side is Assad, who has joined the ranks of history's most evil despots, and on the other side we have rebels that have been infiltrated by al Qaeda. Unless something changes, I will work to keep the United States out of this Sunni-Shia civil war in Syria," Rooney emailed Monday.
U. S. Rep Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, of the 10th Congressional District, also is opposed but left the door slightly ajar for any changes.
"I am pleased that the president has agreed to fulfill his responsibility to consult with Congress before intervening militarily in Syria," Webster said in an email he sent while en route to Washington.
"While I will seriously consider the information delivered in upcoming classified briefings, at this point I am strongly opposed to military intervention in Syria."
His 10th Congressional District includes Polk City, Auburndale, Winter Haven and north-central Polk County, along with portions of Lake and Orange counties.
House Republicans will meet at 9 a.m. today to discuss the president's request. It will be the first House GOP conference since Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republican House leaders came out in favor of military intervention two weeks ago, but few of either party did.
[ Ledger Political Editor Bill Rufty can be reached at 802-7523 or email@example.com. ]
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