San Joaquin Valley Republicans skeptical about Syria attack plan

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

San Joaquin Valley congressional Republicans are resisting the Obama administration’s request for authorization to attack Syria, even as lawmakers refine the proposal.

Some GOP members appear dead set in their opposition to a Syria intervention, such as Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay. Other Californians say they are leaning no on the upcoming high-stakes war vote, including Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford.

“I have a lot of unanswered questions, from what the American interests to what our strategy will be,” Denham said in an interview Wednesday, adding that “all of the questions I have, my constituents have as well.”

Valadao, likewise, said in an interview Wednesday that he was a “lean no,” based on his own questions as well as the apparently widespread skepticism of his constituents in Fresno, Kern, Tulare and Kings counties.

“I’ve had more personal comments to me on this issue than on any other issue, and they’re all saying no,” Valadao said. “They’re fed up with war.”

An Air Force veteran representing Stanislaus County and part of San Joaquin County, Denham said he thinks a military action authorization would fail if it came to a House vote this week. That could change; indeed, some Valley representatives confided Wednesday they sensed congressional sentiment may be shifting toward support of military action.

On Wednesday afternoon, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer supported the use-of-force authorization that passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-7 vote. Valadao said that the Senate committee vote suggested some momentum was moving in favor of the military force authorization.

Still, underscoring the administration’s continuing political challenge, no House member from the area between Stockton and Bakersfield is publicly supporting action. Only one, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, suggested he may be leaning toward support.

“I told the White House that I’m open to considering support, but I want to know more definition of what the plan is,” Costa said in an interview Wednesday, adding that “if our resolution is going to parallel the Senate’s, that would provide the type of definition I’m looking for.”

The Senate measure would limit military action against Syria to 60 days, with a possible 30-day extension, and would also rule out ground troops being sent into the Middle Eastern nation of 23 million. A House version has not yet been publicly released.

Members of Congress often withhold public commitments until the last minute, particularly on dicey issues. Giving a green light to lethal military action, moreover, is a new test for many. While 12 House members represent congressional districts in the greater Central Valley spanning the region from Bakersfield to the Oregon border, only one was in office during the 2002 Iraq War authorization vote.

That member, Vietnam War veteran Rep. Mike Thompson, R-St. Helena, voted in 2002 against the Iraq war. He is now undecided on Syria, with spokesman Austin Vevurka saying Wednesday that Thompson “will not commit to voting one way or the other until he knows exactly what the authorization bill will look like, and has reviewed all the intelligence.”

Similarly, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is continuing to “review the information and monitor the situation” and will “make a final decision after a House floor debate concludes and the details of the authorization bill are known,” spokesperson Lauren Smith said Wednesday.

One of Thompson’s colleagues on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, likewise says more information is needed, though he says it with a bit of an edge.

Nunes, while saying he has “not categorically ruled out” supporting military force, has drafted a bill that calls on the administration to first return with detailed answers, including projected cost estimates and further explanation of what it means to “degrade” Syria’s chemical weapons capacity.

Further complicating any effort to predict an outcome, House Republican leaders are not whipping either support or opposition to a measure they call a “vote of conscience.” Though the top two House Republicans now support military action, the House majority whip who represents part of Tulare County and who usually corrals and counts votes, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, told the Bakersfield Californian this week that “I like to have everything before me before I make this kind of judgment.”

McClintock, whose district includes much of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Lake Tahoe to Sequoia National Park, told National Public Radio last weekend that he was “deeply skeptical of American military involvement in Syria in any form” and added that he was “very skeptical that a war, once it’s begun, could be limited.”

McClintock’s office did not respond to multiple queries Wednesday..

Email: mdoyle@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @MichaelDoyle10

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Solid US job gains expected for 6th straight month

    With a host of reports this week pointing to a healthier U.S. economy, analysts expect Friday's monthly jobs report to send a similar message.

  •  
John Tefft of Va., arrives to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, to be the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia. President Barack Obama's earlier announcement that he is tapping Tefft for the high-profile diplomatic post comes amid a crucial period in U.S.-Russia relations, which have been severely tested over President Vladimir Putin's actions in neighboring Ukraine, among other issues. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been without an ambassador since February.

    Senate confirms US ambassador to Russia

    After a period in limbo with a slew of other nominees to be U.S. diplomats around the world, John Tefft gained Senate confirmation Thursday night as America's new envoy to Russia.

  • FAA places new restrictions on flights over Iraq

    The Federal Aviation Administration is restricting U.S. airlines from flying at or below 30,000 feet over Iraq because of what it calls "the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict" there.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category