09/05/2013 05:06 pm ET

Republican Congressman Wants Syria Vote To Be Held On 9/11


WASHINGTON -- Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) thinks the House of Representatives should vote down a Syria war resolution on 9/11, in support of the victims of the terrorist attacks 12 years ago.

"If there's a vote in the House, it should be held on 9/11 so that the House can honor the victims of 9/11 by defeating the resolution and demonstrating we will not help Al Qaeda," Culberson told reporters Thursday after attending a classified briefing on the Syrian civil war and the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Assad.

Culberson said he had no doubt that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people, but he said that didn't change his mind or the minds of voters about getting more engaged in Syria.

"In addition to my core philosophical belief that we have no strategic interest at stake -- this is not America's fight -- my constituents, 96 percent of them, have said 'No, stay out,' and I'm going to fulfill my responsibilities to my job description and vote no," Culberson said.

He argued that the Syrian civil war involves actors on each side who are enemies of the U.S., including opposition groups with ties to Al Qaeda. Voting down a resolution to use U.S. force in that fight on the anniversary of Al Qaeda's attacks on America, he said, would add "clarity" to the debate.

"How can it be any clearer? That's the perfect day to do it," Culberson said. "They need to defeat it to honor the victims of 9/11. We will not give aid and comfort to the psychopaths that carried out the 9/11 attack."

As he was speaking, he received an email from his staff saying House leaders expected the Senate to hold its first full vote on the matter on the 12-year anniversary.

That is possible under the schedule Senate officials have released. It calls for introducing the resolution -- which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday -- to the full Senate on Friday. Under Senate rules, the first vote (which merely would be to end debate on a motion to proceed to the measure) would come on 9/11, unless leaders can secure the consent of all senators to hold the vote sooner.

Culberson is the latest among a growing number of lawmakers to speak out forcefully against launching an attack on the Assad regime, adding to a growing sense that the resolution could fail, even though House leaders on both sides of the aisle back President Barack Obama's call for intervention.

Both Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have declared they will not "whip" their members to vote their way, and Culberson said Boehner was standing by that position.

"This is a matter of conscience," he said.

Many supporters of intervention in Syria, such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), admit there are Al Qaeda-linked groups battling Assad, but they argue the vast majority of the rebels who would benefit from U.S. action are moderates.

Ironically, Culberson voted against the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010, which provided medical treatment to 9/11 first responders who were diagnosed with cancer and other illnesses.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.



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