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Louisiana's congressional delegation largely undecided on Syria

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 5:02 PM

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana's congressional delegation remains hesitant and uncommitted to President Barack Obama's request for support of a U.S. military strike against Syria.

Only one member of the state's delegation, Republican Rep. John Fleming of Minden, has taken a definitive stance on the proposal. And he's in solid opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria for a suspected chemical weapons attack against its own people.

"I cannot condone putting our Armed Forces in harm's way or committing our military resources to a situation that is so filled with uncertainty and volatility. Our national security is not under threat from the Syrian civil war, and President Obama has shown no clear objective that would be accomplished by launching missiles into Syria," Fleming said in a statement.

Republican Sen. David Vitter received a classified briefing Wednesday as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Vitter came away undecided.

He called the hearing helpful, but added in a statement, "The bottom line is I walked into it with serious concerns about the President's plan and walked out with the same concerns."

Louisiana's two Democrats, Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond, regularly vote with the president. But they also have not committed to support Obama's request for a military strike.

Richmond issued a statement that initially seemed to back the White House: "I support President Obama's decision to engage with Congress as we join the global community to ensure that this grave human offense is addressed. When the Assad regime decided to rain chemical warfare on more than 1,400 people, including 400 children, it became a matter of national security."

But Richmond spokeswoman Monique Waters said Wednesday that the statement just expressed general support for congressional engagement — not a specific yes vote for the military action — and she described the New Orleans congressman as undecided.

GOP Reps. Steve Scalise of Metairie and Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge agreed that Obama should pose the question to Congress, rather than take military action on his own, but they didn't say how they would vote now that the decision rests with them.

Rep. Charles Boustany, a Republican from Lafayette, was "skeptical" of such a military strike option, according to his spokesman Neal Patel.

The dean of Louisiana's House members, Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander, who is leaving Congress at the end of the month for a state cabinet position, appeared to be leaning against a military strike in Syria.

"At this time, Congressman Alexander does not feel it is in our best interests to take military action. However, he believes a thorough congressional debate is critical before any decisions are made regarding how to proceed," spokeswoman Jamie Hanks said in an email.

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