POLITICS

Congressional Black Caucus Pressed To Stay Quiet On Syria

09/05/2013 01:21 pm ET | Updated Sep 06, 2013

WASHINGTON -- As the Obama administration lobbies Congress this week to authorize military strikes on Syria, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus has asked caucus members to refrain from discussing the Syria debate in public.

Numerous media outlets reported Thursday that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) sent an email to members of her caucus asking them "to limit public comment" on the Syria debate -- a move that drove one CBC member to complain to Foreign Policy's The Cable that Fudge was trying to quiet the growing chorus of opposition in Congress to U.S. airstrikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But Fudge's spokeswoman, Ayofemi Kirby, said the congresswoman simply wanted to make sure members had all the information available before making up their minds. Members of the CBC are scheduled to receive a classified briefing on Syria from White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice this coming Monday.

"The chair believes Congress and the American public need more information, and she awaits more briefings between now and early next week before commenting further," Kirby told The Hill.

With more than 40 members, the CBC will likely be a crucial voting bloc in putting together the bipartisan coalition of House members that the White House will need to pass the Syria authorization. The full chamber will return next week to debate the measure.

Already a number of CBC members have stated their opposition to the use of force in Syria. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) told The Wall Street Journal, "If I had to vote today, I would cast a 'no' vote."

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) was more adamant, telling Foreign Policy, "I'll be damned if I see anything worth fighting for" in the Syrian civil war conflict, which has dragged on for more than two years.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) sent around a letter last week asking Obama to obtain congressional approval before taking any military action against the Assad regime. The letter garnered 64 signatures from 64 Democrats.

On Wednesday, the typically hawkish Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria by a vote of 10-7. The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure early next week.

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