By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
LONDON — Kentucky Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, is leaning against voting to authorize military action against Syria.
“I’m leaning toward voting no, but I want to hear the case before making a final decision,” Rogers said Friday during a visit here.
Rogers was here Friday to meet with the Interim Joint Judiciary Committee about Operation UNITE, a drug enforcement, education and treatment program he founded and which has put a sizeable dent in the widespread substance abuse problem in southeastern Kentucky.
He spent some time talking with Kentucky Adjutant General Edward Tonini about the crisis in Syria and what the president’s call for a response.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are trying to persuade Congress to authorize a “limited, targeted” strike against Syria after the regime of Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on its own citizens during the civil war there.
During a press conference Friday in Russia where the president is attending the G-20 Summit of western leaders and Russia, Obama conceded he knew securing the support of the war-weary American people and Congress would “be a hard sell.”
The measure is thought to have a better chance in the Democratic controlled Senate where it has already passed the Foreign Affairs Committee. But the measure faces stiff opposition in the Republican House, including many who have previously called for U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, has already said he will vote against the measure while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville hasn’t said how he plans to vote.
The Republican opposition seems if anything to be growing in the House despite the open support of Republican Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both of whom have been briefed by the White House.
Many Republican House members — back home during a recess — have found their constituents overwhelmingly opposed to any intervention by the U.S. and some polls have put public opposition to the measure as high as 80 percent.
Rogers is wary of seeing the United States involved in another Middle East regional conflict.
“I have great reservations about sparking a fire in a tinder box part of the world, especially so close to our friends like Israel and Jordan,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he will attend a classified briefing by administration officials on Monday when he returns to Washington and he wants to hear the president’s case to the American people when Obama addressed the nation Tuesday night.
“I want to hear all the facts, but I’m leaning no,” Rogers said.
Rogers said if the vote were taken today, it would fail in the House of Representatives, and he doesn’t see its chances improving there.
“Unless things change dramatically, it won’t pass the House,” Rogers said.
Obama plans to address the nation on Tuesday night to build support for a strike, which he and Kerry say will significantly “degrade” Assad’s military capability and ability to use chemical weapons in the future.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.