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by
Bridget Johnson

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September 5, 2013 - 1:59 pm

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, some with antiwar records, are struggling over how to vote on the authorization of force allowing President Obama to strike at Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

“I think the most important impression that I am getting, having been in a series of conference calls, briefings, meetings with Syrian-Americans that I met within in my constituency last evening, who painted a picture of humanitarian disaster, but also into a call of about 300 constituents as I was leaving Houston today to come to this briefing,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) told reporters on the Hill today.

She said the method of chemical weapons makes it “a very tough call for members and also for the American people to understand, because there are no words in there such as self-defense.”

On her eventual vote, Jackson Lee said she’s still “enormously open.”

“My decision will be based upon the — not the issue of credibility. And I wish we’d not hold that standard up. I think America has shown itself to be credible. Our president has shown himself to be credible,” she added. “…But I think the important point is for the American people is that what is their stake in this? What is the danger to them if this is not done?”

“Do the American people understand the gravity of chemical weapons? And I think more than anyone else, the commander in chief of a nation would be an excellent person to articulate both his mission, his passion, and what is the impact and danger of chemical weapons. For those of us who lived in this nation, it might be difficult to understand.”

Jackson Lee indicated there won’t be a uniform CBC stance on the vote.

“I don’t want to speculate on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus,” she said. “All individual members, patriots, Americans.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) told reporters he hasn’t made up his mind.

“There is still information to be gathered. I still have some concerns. I intend to come to some more meetings. But as far as having made a decision as of yet, I have not,” he said.

From constituents back home, he said, he’s being told to “study.”

“I mean, of course, there’s a large number of them that say they don’t want you to go to war, but a number of them said study, get as much information as you can possibly get, you know, to make a decision. And that is what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to gather in as much information as I can get so I can make a decision,” Meeks continued.

As far as where other members are headed in their decisions, “People have come away from the break to really try to dive into what’s going on here.”

Meeks said he thinks the White House is “trying to decide” if more information should be released to the public in making its case.

Still, he added, his concerns haven’t been “alleviated” by the closed-door briefings but “there’s some discussion that it has triggered.”

Many CBC members, including Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), were on the bipartisan letters urging Obama to bring the authorization before Congress.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told MSNBC that he’s getting a lot of pushback from his constituents.

“I just literally ran into a nurse within the last half an hour at Johns Hopkins, which is in my district, and she said, ‘I beg you, please, vote against this,’ and she said — I said but don’t you understand that these are biological and chemical weapons? You would expect a nurse would understand,” Cummings said. “And she said, I understand, she says, but, you know, they’ve been — people have been using these weapons for years. And she said, you know, I just came from my son’s school, and they didn’t even have books.”

What members are grappling with, he said, is “whether the cure that is being proposed, that is these limited strikes and limited effort in scope and duration, whether that is a cure or whether that makes the situation worse.”

“I admire members that have already made up their minds. Because I’m telling you, as the more information I learn, the more I am convinced that we have got to try to figure out what happens after this,” Cummings added. “Because I do believe, from everything that I’ve read, that President Assad will retaliate, I mean, that he’s going to do something.”

“…When I’ve gotten 95 percent of the calls coming into my office saying no it makes it very difficult, and that’s why the president has got to address my constituents.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the lone vote against retaliatory action for the 9/11 attacks and another member who asked Obama to ask Congress for authorization, has been largely mum on her opinion for the past several days.

“This is not Afghanistan, Iraq nor Libya. In 2001, the resolution that I voted against was a blank check. It’s been used, I know, over 30 times to engage in some form of conflict and hostility. And, in fact, that resolution needs to be repealed, because that is a resolution that allowed for an open-ended war,” Lee said on Aug. 31.

“In this instance, the president said that should force be used, it’s going to be targeted, it’s going to be limited, it’s not going to be open-ended. We have to believe that.”

MORE: Holmes Norton says Obama may need to rely on Dem loyalty

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
The Congressional Blacks Only Caucus is a racist institution from the demokkkrat party of apartheid. It must go. Who cares what the racists say anyway.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is just putting up a smoke screen so they have some cover for voting for intervention. Sheila Jackson Lee's vote will be based on the fact that she is black and so is Obama. The CBC doesn't give a damn about national interests, they just don't want to embarrass the 'Brother" in the Oval office.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Who do they think they're kidding? What is it about 95% "No" that makes things "difficult" for Cummings?

The CBC are all in safe districts. They'll vote how the plantation Massah tells them to.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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He got them in a pickle all right! Ha! It is hard for them to disagree with their god when he behaves like the "hater" Bush. Not to worry folks: we are in the hands of ignoramuses, charlatans, and sectarians. They won't fail to blow themselves up.

Just prepare for reconstruction.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I used to live in S. J. Lee's district in Houston. I've had to watch her since she "served" (herself) on Houston City Gov. When she utters something, my first thoughts are "Shhhhhhhhh", which is and acronym for Sub-human.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Add up all their IQs and you will get an average person's.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
More than likely they are negotiating for a payoff.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Congressional Blacks Only Caucus is a racist institution from the demokkkrat party of apartheid. It must go. Who cares what the racists say anyway.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Pardon my skepticism, but I don't believe for a nanosecond the CBC is struggling with this decision. They want to be SEEN as struggling with this, as if they have a conscience, as if they are not little black automatons saluting the first black president in every act he commits or decision he and Val make. But that's simply not the same as having moral courage. Nope. The CBC is a racist echo chamber.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Black first, last and always, fomenting the anger that should've died an inglorious death decades ago with the passage of all the equal rights laws. Laws, that many say were devised by democrats to keep blacks subjugated and beholden to the democrat party for "200 years".

Beyond that, I think they have just co-opted the day-to-day normal anger and frustration of life into a constant excuse to be a**holes by attaching it to racism that doesn't exist.

Like many times in my military career, when replying to yet another angry black who told me, "You don;t like me cuz I'm black.". I would stop, look them square in the eye with my hands at my sides and state flatly, "No, I don't like you because you're an a**hole."

The looks on their faces over the years still haunt my memory and cause me to chuckle. Stupid is an equal-opportunity employer and so is being a jerk. The prevalence of such behavior though is a mechanism borne of incredible insecurity, as provided by the democrat party that reinforces the notion that blacks are needy little creatures that cannot make it on their own.

It staggers me to think how it all might've turned out had the laws about hiring the best people for the job instead of having quotas and busing and political agendas attached to everything. Maybe we'd see a lot less than 75% teen unemployment, 75% prison populations and black-on-black homicide today.

Maybe.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Be bold Ms. Jackson. Cast a vote that represents the interests of your constituents and not your exclusive Caucus. Did you not know that the possibility of actually understanding and standing up for or against an issue might one day come to you?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is just putting up a smoke screen so they have some cover for voting for intervention. Sheila Jackson Lee's vote will be based on the fact that she is black and so is Obama. The CBC doesn't give a damn about national interests, they just don't want to embarrass the 'Brother" in the Oval office.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Who do they think they're kidding? What is it about 95% "No" that makes things "difficult" for Cummings?

The CBC are all in safe districts. They'll vote how the plantation Massah tells them to.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Cummings is senile. Everything is harder, except reflexive hatred for Republicans, when you're senile.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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