Florida Rep. Ted Yoho, who sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said Wednesday he plans to follow the will of "98 percent" of his constituents, who do not believe a U.S. engagement in Syria is in the country's best interests.
"Ted is going to be a 'no,'" said Yoho, a first-term Republican, after a daylong hearing on Capitol Hill. "Several of my colleagues are going to be 'nos,' but there are a lot of people who were on the borderline, and I can't answer for them."
President Barack Obama is pushing for limited strikes in Syria, but agreed last weekend to a congressional vote on the issue.
Meanwhile Wednesday, a resolution approving the use of force against Bashar Assad's regime narrowly cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after a last-minute change to include support for "decisive changes to the present military balance of power" in Syria's civil war.
The measure sets a 60-day timetable on the engagement with a possible one-month extension, and rules out U.S. combat operations on the ground. The full Senate could vote on the resolution as early as next week.
Yoho said that in the last two to three decades, countries have produced, transported, stored, or sold chemical weapons in apparent violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
"If we all of a sudden go to Syria and say, 'all right, games over, you did this,' what do we do with North Korea, that's sitting on a stockpile of them? Russia has supplied Syria with chemicals. So do we go to Russia next because they are part of this? Weren't they complicit?" he asked.
"And then you have Iran developing a nuclear weapon which is common knowledge around the world in the intelligence communities. Nobody is in denial of that — and they've threatened to bomb Israel."
Asked by Newsmax whether he is concerned about the message a "no" vote would send to countries such as Iran and North Korea, Yoho said the United States must take a different approach in the troubled Middle East because the fragmented policies of the past haven’t worked.
"Do you do pre-emptive strikes or do you wait for something to happen? I don’t like either option," he said. "If we can bring a peaceful resolution through strong diplomacy — imploring these other countries to come, whatever it takes — [such as] ... the threat of taking foreign aid away ... I think we could do the same by bringing China and Russia together and talk to Iran."
He sees the Syrian crisis as an opportunity for America to help build an international coalition promoting a diplomatic solution in the Mideast based on international trade and economic aid.
"This is a chance, at this moment in time in history, where we, America, can lead in a new direction, and a direction where we can bring these other countries together — a coalition that signed the [Chemical Weapons Convention] agreement and negotiate a political and diplomatic solution," he said. "And it’s a time for new direction in our foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. It can be done, and it can be won with diplomacy — not with guns and bombs."
He said fewer than 2 percent of his constituents support a U.S. strike against Syria.
"I represent that [larger] bloc of people, and that's another reason I'm standing this way, besides my political beliefs," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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