Bera probes Hagel on Syria; Boxer votes to attack

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made the Obama administration’s case for bombing Syria to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The committee has no Bay Area members; Rep. Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, is the only member from Northern California, and here’s how he began questioning Hagel:

“It is of critical importance that we are having this discussion. I applaud the President for including Congress in this debate. I agree that we have to show resolve and we have to show that we are committed to our allies, but my constituents and I still need to be convinced, not that atrocities occurred — we all are unanimous in our condemnation of what Assad has done — but we need to know exactly what our goals are and our objectives, because this is increasingly a complex situation.

“And to that extent, let me ask Secretary Hagel a question. When I was home in Sacramento County this past weekend people were stopping me in the grocery store, my neighbors were pulling me aside on the street. I think all of my colleagues have been inundated with phone calls, emails, and almost unanimously, people don’t want us to strike Syria. They’re fatigued. And I answer to these people. These are the people that I represent. My question, Secretary Hagel, is what can I tell my constituents about why these strikes are in our national security interest, why these strikes matter to these folks that are struggling every day? How do I effectively communicate what the plan is?”

Watch their full exchange here:

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 – and not along party lines – on Wednesday to approve a resolution authorizing limited military force against Syria. The resolution is significantly narrow than that which the president had proposed: It would limit hostilities to 90 days, allow military action only within Syria’s borders and prohibit putting any U.S. troops on Syrian soil.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. – who had said Tuesday that she would “support a targeted effort but not a blank check to respond to Syria’s unspeakable deeds to gas its own people to death” – voted for the resolution by proxy today; she was absent due to the imminent start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, at sundown tonight.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Alcoahead

    Not lookin’ good in the House for El Presidente in his quest to be Bush III…

    At this rate, he would need to win all but one of the 157 “fence-sitters” just to squeek out a bare majority of 218 😉


  • JohnW

    Anybody know if Congress has ever voted against a POTUS request for approval of a military action? The only time I can think of is when Congress pretty much stopped the VN war by defunding it. But that was essentially voting to pull the plug a war that had been going on for years. That is different that voting against a military strike.

    I have mixed feelings about what we should do in Syria. I have to wonder whether we would be considering a strike if some African dictator used chemical weapons in a civil war.

    That said, I don’t think Obama should have asked permission. The War Powers Act gives POTUS the authority to take military action and come back later for approval to continue it.

  • Alcoahead

    Hey, look what’s happening — Iran just democratically and legitimately elected a moderate President who wants to make all nicey-nicey with the US and EU and end all of this silly talk about pursuing nuclear weapons and wiping the Israelis off the face of this planet:


    I’ve got a great idea on how to respond to such an overture — let’s unilaterally drop LOTS of warheads on the tips of Tomahawk cruise missiles on their closest neighbor (Syria) to show all of those idiot Iranians who voted for an end to saber-rattling…


    Brought to you by The Military-Industrial Complex (Halliburton, et. al.) and The Alliance To Keep Us Addicted To Foreign Oil (Chevron, et. al.)

    [After all, “nothing says you care more than a cruise missile dropped down your chimney, sealed with a kiss”.]

  • Alcoahead

    Hey, kids — look what just happened!


    Less than one day after John “Windsurfer Dude” Kerry stated we would NOT bomb if Syria turned over their chemical arsenal within a week, Vladimir “Buff Dude” Putin told Syria to do just that, NOW, and Bashir “Gasbag Dude” Assad said he was quite open to it.

    Wow, kids! Diplomacy just might work! What will Halliburton and Chevron do now?

    Their shareholders need their PROFIT — what are all those geriatric white hairs going to do to pay for their daily Ensure fix if we DON’T keep the petro-addicted war machine going?

  • JohnW

    Today’s news is that John Kerry, Putin, the UN Sec-Gen, and Syria all seem to be buying into a plan whereby Syria would turn its stock of chem/bio weapons over to international control for destruction. I don’t know if it’s for real, or who deserves credit. But it sounds like potentially good news.

    The whole world has stood by for years watching Syria build up it’s lethal supply of those weapons. Many nations, including the U.S., have assisted, wittingly or not. This could be a way out of that mess.

    It’s a confession by Syria that it has the weapons and that the weapons are in control of the central government — which would seem to rule out the notion that multiple occasions of the weapons being used were the decision of a rogue General rather than the high command.

    It would be face-saving for Obama and, more importantly, for the U.S.

    Depending on your point of view, the downside for the U.S., and perhaps a reason Putin and Assad are interested, is that it would be tacit agreement by the U.S. not to escalate whatever intervention we have performed in Syria.

    This is not the time for Congress to get wimpy. Keep the pressure on so that the administration has leverage to make this proposal actually happen. Whether you like this administration or not, it’s the only one we’ve got.

    The only side that probably won’t like the idea is the rebels, whoever they may be.