Colorado delegation urges Obama to consult Congress on Syria

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From left to right: Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma; Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez; Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora; Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder; Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden.

DENVER — Three Colorado Republican congressman have signed onto a letter urging President Barack Obama not to authorize military action againt Syria before consulting Congress first.

Reps. Mike Coffman of Aurora, Cory Gardner of Yuma and Scott Tipton of Cortez, all Republicans, are among more than 100 members of Congress — many of them, among the most conservative members of the House GOP caucus — signed onto the letter from Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia.

“While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, the foresaw the need to ensure public debate — and active engagement of Congress — prior to committing U.S. military assets,” the letter states.

“Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delinieated in the Constitution.”

Interestingly, many Democratic members of Congress agree with their conservative counterparts.

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, who voted against funding the Afghanistan war in 2009, declined to say whether Obama should attack Syria; however, he agrees that he should consult with Congress first.

“This proposal is very new to us, and I would hope that members of Congress would take the time to hear the case and the president and hear the other side before offering poorly informed opinions,” Polis told POLITICO Wednesday. “I would hope that we will all have a classified briefing on this either in an emergency briefing or upon our return to Washington.”

And Thursday afternoon, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, informed reporters that she had signed on to a different letter from over 50 Democrats also urging the president to wait for Congress.

After an apparent chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against hundreds of civilians, the White House is likely to take some sort of military action.

But just a decade removed from President Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq based largely on falty intelligence, the country is deeply skeptical about being drawn into another long, sectarian conflict in the Middle East.

Hence, the growing chorus of Republicans and Democrats encouraging the president not to do anything without their approval.

“If the allegations that the regime in Syria used chemical weapons are proved true, then this violation of human rights must be taken very seriously,” said Gardner. “President Obama must not act unilaterally, Congress must approve any military action. If this means Congress return to session immediately, then so be it.”

Consider: the similarity among the official statements from Gardner and most of his congressional colleagues.

“There is no scenario in which the use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians is acceptable, and I’m deeply troubled by reports that this has occurred in Syria,” said Tipton. “As the President considers the course of action to respond to this developing situation, I encourage him to fulfill his obligation to consult with Congress before authorizing the use of military force, and explain the reasons for proposed actions to the American people.”

Along the same lines, a spokeswoman for Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, tells FOX31 that “he thinks there should be targeted military action against Syria to prevent further atrocities and the use of chemical weapons in the future” but also “would like members of Congress to hear from the President about what the options and plans are.”

Coffman, an Iraq War veteran who signed the letter urging the president to consult Congress, believes that the president’s likeliest military strategy is the right one.

“I think we ought to send a clear and decisive message to Assad that [the use of chemical weapons] is unacceptable,” Coffman told FOX31 Denver Wednesday. “And I think the president is right in considering a limited strike that would target their infrastructure or even destroying the chemical munitions of the regime. But going beyond that, I think, would be a terrible mistake.

“I don’t think Americans fully understand that this conflict is really a sectarian conflict that is really intractable. And, ultimately, if the Assad regime falls, there could emerge a new regime that’s potentially worse.

“The best organized elements of the opposition are al Qaeda units.”

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