Davis may oppose Syria action
CHAMPAIGN — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis says he is leaning toward voting against a congressional authorization to use military force against Syria.
The Taylorville Republican said Wednesday that reaction from his central Illinois constituents is running 99-1 against a show of force against the Syrian government.
"When I say virtual unanimity, it is virtual unanimity. Ninety-nine percent are saying that. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that (President Obama) hasn't come out and offered a compelling reason why — although the why is that (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) is a genocidal maniac — but he hasn't explained to the American people what he intends to do. And I think that uncertainty frustrates them enough to say, 'No, we don't want to go at all.'
"The entire weekend this issue drowned out what was the Number One issue for the entire month of August for me, which was Obamacare. No one's even talking about Obamacare now. They're talking about Syria, and with virtual unanimity I've had people say, 'Don't go, don't give the authorization.'"
Voters have offered a variety of reasons, including the financial cost of another military incursion, said Davis.
"But there's some war weariness in this area right now because a lot of our families were the ones sending soldiers overseas for the last decade," Davis said of his 13th Congressional District that stretches from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to Edwardsville and Collinsville on the southwest. "I think there's some weariness there, but the main point that is brought up is, If Obama gets this, what is he doing to do? That's the point that still hasn't been answered or explained to us in Congress. Is he going to take out Assad? Is it going to require boots on the ground? Is he going to find and eliminate chemical weapons stockpiles? Or is he just going to shoot a few cruise missiles over there and a few drone attacks and knock out some command-and-control centers and call it a victory?"
Davis said he expects a House vote on the use of force "early next week."
Before then he said he would take part in classified briefings on the issue, but he doesn't expect that they'll be persuasive.
"They offered up classified briefings with some of the White House staff and other intelligence staff last weekend," Davis said. "I called some of my colleagues who went to that briefing afterward and each colleague I talked to said the evidence that was presented didn't change their mind."
Davis, a freshman lawmaker, said Obama "should have called us back (to Washington) because we could have dealt with this, this week. Frankly, no matter what the outcome is with the congressional resolution, he still has the authority to act on his own if he feels it's that important. And waiting pushes back some very important domestic agenda items that we have to complete in September."
There's still time for the president to present his case to the American people, Davis said.
"I hope he does," he added. "That would at least clarify what his plans are. It's something I've said all along throughout this entire debate, he needs to do more to lead and show the American public why it's important, and how he intends to put the mission into action. And what his goals are."
Davis said his vote on military action won't be based just on his constituents' opinions.
"It will be based a lot on what my constituents say, but I'm sent there to represent them and my vote will be based on the information I've been given. I'll make the decision on this issue just like any other issue."
In stating his opinion Wednesday — his spokesman said Tuesday that he was undecided — Davis joined his former boss, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, in expressing skepticism about the need for a military strike against Syria.
"My gut tells me it makes matters worse not better," Shimkus said in a prepared statement. "Its limited actions continue the civil war. It creates another cause for grievance by the Arab world, and it risks this conflict spilling across the borders of our allies."
Shimkus' district includes parts of Champaign County, and all of Vermilion, Douglas, Edgar, Coles, Moultrie and Shelby counties.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, whose district includes all of Iroquois County and part of Ford County, has committed to supporting military action.
"If we can stand up and say that chemical weapons have no place in this world and we can do something about it, God help us if we don't," Kinzinger said during a congressional hearing Wednesday. "I'm also reminded of what President Clinton said when he was asked what his one regret was for his time in the presidency. He said my one regret was inaction in Rwanda. And I wonder in 20, 10, 50 years what are we going to say if we did nothing about the gassing of thousands of people in Syria."