Last updated: August 31. 2013 11:05PM - 2094 Views
By - jlynott@timesleader.com

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Lawmakers representing Northeastern Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C. welcomed President Barack Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval to use military force against Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.

The president on Saturday said as commander in chief he believes he has the authority to take military action without authorization from Congress, but will present his case to the House and Senate that his approach is necessary in response to the deadly attacks and to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, saw firsthand the effects of the conflict when he visited the region in April and met with Syrian refugees on the Turkish border, he said.

Casey, who participated Friday in an intelligence briefing on Syria as a member of the National Security Working Group, said a debate on Syria policy is “very important and I wish it had started sooner.”

“I have no doubt that Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people,” he said.

Casey, co-chair of the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism Caucus, pointed out that in November he presented a “comprehensive approach to the Syrian crisis” and “called for a more assertive approach to the conflict in Syria,” believing the Assad regime was a threat to the stability of the region and the broader security interests of the U.S.

“Every day that Assad remains in power helps Iran and Hezbollah who plot against the United States and its allies,” Casey said in a prepared statement. “I believe that it is in the U.S. national security interest to respond to this most recent chemical attack. I appreciate the administration’s efforts to consult with Congress about the situation as we collectively assess our response.”

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton said he applauded the president and looked forward to examining the case to be made to lawmakers before voting on whether to authorize the use of force. “America is at its strongest when proper channels are followed and the nation speaks with one voice,” Barletta said.

Barletta said that he wanted to hear what “overriding American national security interests are at stake” to support military strikes.

“Rogue nations have threatened to attack Israel in retaliation for any American action,” said Barletta. “There is also the very real fear that al-Qaeda is heavily involved with the rebel forces which would seemingly benefit from our intervention. Finally, it is troublesome that even our closest ally, Great Britain, has rejected participation through a vote of its Parliament.”

Earlier in the week U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, said it appeared “to be an established fact” that chemical weapons were used and, coupled with Assad’s behavior, there was a national security interest to the U.S.

“This calls for an American response, being mindful to avoid a long-term military engagement in the Syrian civil war,” said Toomey. “The president must explain to Congress and the American people the objectives and risks of any action.”

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