HELENA — U.S. Rep. Steve Daines said Monday after a statewide telephone town hall that he will oppose potential military action in Syria.
The Republican held the evening conference call to discuss the Obama administration’s call for military action against Syria, blamed for a deadly chemical weapons attack last month.
Daines said during the hour-long call that he isn’t convinced that national security is at risk in a complex situation.
Most callers, who gave their first names and hometowns, told Daines they were opposed to military action. A few expressed support, or reservations that there may be repercussions for letting Syrian leaders get away with using poisonous gas on their own citizens.
Daines’ office said Montanans have been overwhelmingly opposed in the several thousand calls and emails received over the past week. At the end of the call, Daines said it is clear to him that Montanans oppose the president’s call for action.
“It comes to a pretty clear conclusion for me that, this is the House of the people and that I represent you back in Washington, I will be voting no on military action,” Daines said. “Certainly, that is where Montanans are at.
“If it does come to the House floor, I will be voting no.”
Supporters of military action argue Syria must be punished for using chemical weapons. Legislation approved in a Senate committee would give Obama a maximum of 90 days to carry out a military attack, and it includes a ban on combat operations on the ground.
Daines conceded during the conference call than inaction carries some risks.
“What are the consequences, what is the accountability, for using chemical weapons?” Daines said of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. “He has crossed a line that is drawn really by the international community.”
But Daines said he doesn’t want the country to enter a conflict where the objective isn’t clear and the outcome isn’t certain.
Daines has indicated since last week that he was leaning against action, although said he would consider Obama’s request as it was brought to Congress. The freshman Republican said he needed to be convinced that national security was at risk.
Daines said during the call that he left the Monday administration briefing with “a lot of questions and concerns.”
U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester have not yet indicated how they will vote.
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