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House Conservative Who Opposed Obama Involvement in Syria Argues Death Toll Higher Now

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) leaves a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol on March 28, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who argued that President Obama should not get involved in Syria said it’s different now with President Trump’s action because, in part, the death toll in the country is higher than when he countered Obama’s policy.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) told CNN this morning that the “best thing” the Trump administration did with last week’s strikes on a Syrian government airfield is send “a strong signal that enough’s enough.”

Yoho added that “the world sat by idly” as the death toll racked up over the past six years in Syria, and “you saw a lot of rhetoric but no action.”

Though the airfield is still in service, Yoho said the strikes sent “a very strong signal that, you know, we’ve got very pinpoint targeting — we could do more damage if needed.”

“Hopefully we don’t have to and that Assad got the message. And, you know, let’s bring the civil war to an end. It’s displaced as many people as before World War II, you know, with refugees around the world,” he added. “It hasn’t just destabilized Syria, it’s destabilized the whole world with refugees going everywhere.”

In 2013, Yoho introduced legislation to prohibit assistance to any forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad. That same year, the congressman said it was “neither the role of the United States federal government to do so nor the responsibility of American taxpayer to fund such an unconstitutional act” as intervening in Syria, adding that “if we were to engage in military aid or action in Syria, we are engaging in an act of war against a sovereign nation.”

Yoho told CNN today that he feels “the same,” but “the things that have changed are a couple of things.”

“One is, you know, this is six years later. And you’ve got 480,000 people that have been killed… President Obama wanted to have an open-end. In fact, I asked [former White House Chief of Staff] Denis McDonough, how long was this operation going to last? He says we’re not sure, maybe 10 years. And I asked how much it was going to cost. It was going to be over a billion dollars a month is what their estimate was. It was engaging us long-term in the Middle East,” Yoho said.

“…It’s four years later, 480,000 people have been slaughtered over there. And so what President Trump did was an immediate attack. He said enough is enough. I am still of the mindset that we are not going to commit. What we did is, I feel, was right at the verge of an act of war. We attacked a sovereign nation. And so for him to go any further, he’s got to come to Congress. We have to talk about this. I’m not willing to commit American taxpayers’ money anymore or American troops on the ground in another Middle Eastern country.”

Yoho added that changes need to happen in Syria because “are we going to sit here and watch another Auschwitz, you know, where millions got killed as the world stood by?”