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Kyle Potter, Published September 09 2013

Most area representatives in Congress against military strike

WASHINGTON – Democrat or Republican, Minnesotan or North Dakotan – most of the Fargo-Moorhead area’s representatives in Congress say they’ll vote against military intervention in Syria, highlighting the tough odds President Obama may face to authorize a strike.

North Dakota Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven said in separate news releases Monday that they haven’t been convinced military intervention is necessary in Syria, where U.S. leaders believe the government of President Bashar Assad deployed chemical weapons against its own people. Instead, both senators called for a diplomatic solution.

Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat representing Minnesota’s 7th District, has previously said he would not support military action.

“I acknowledge the United States has a national interest in the Syrian conflict, but I do not believe our interests are advanced by the proposed strikes,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota’s sole representative in the House, in a statement Monday. “I am concerned about choosing sides in a civil war where neither force is a clear ally.”

The Senate is working on a resolution which, if passed, would authorize up to 90 days of military action in the war-torn Middle East country. It would ban sending in any American troops on the ground.

“I have real concerns about the administration’s approach and believe that President Obama has not yet made a clear and convincing case for his plan to take action in Syria,” Republican Hoeven said in a statement.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is still reviewing the Senate proposal and other options, spokeswoman Brigit Helgen said. Klobuchar believes the recent call for Assad to turn over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile to international hands – first floated Monday by Secretary of State John Kerry – was a “positive development,” Helgen said.

Sen. Al Franken is also still weighing the Senate resolution, according to a spokesman. The Minnesota Democrat had previously signaled he would support a limited military attack.

The debate over whether to launch an assault against Syria has blurred the traditional Democrat-Republican voting lines in Washington, D.C. Republican House Speaker John Boehner publicly supported Obama’s call for military force, as has Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House’s top Democrat.

In her statement coming out against the current plan in the Senate, Heitkamp said the U.S. needs “an alternative path forward in dealing with the Assad regime.”

The first-term Democrat touted her proposal with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., that would give the Syrian president 45 days to sign the international chemical weapons ban and turn over its stockpile. Syria is one of five countries that haven’t signed the Chemical Weapons Convention accord, which went into effect in 1997.

“At its core, I believe the current Senate resolution falls short because it calls for military action in Syria without carefully looking at diplomatic or alternative solutions,” Heitkamp said. “I strongly believe that we need the entire world, not just America, to prevent and deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria, or anywhere else on the globe.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502