The president of the 37-member class of Republican freshmen in the House of Representatives told Newsmax on Monday that "based on the facts I have today, I would vote to authorize U.S. participation in a Syrian airstrike."
But Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, president of the House GOP's class of 2012 and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the Obama administration has a lot to do in terms "of bringing along the American people" to the same position.
"The president has to explain the risks," said Messer, referring to Barack Obama's nationally televised address on Syria planned for Tuesday night.
Having just heard initial reports about Russia's proposal that Syrian President Bashar Assad sets aside its chemical weapons arsenal, Messer said he and his colleagues would require more information. But, he added, "Vladimir Putin is not exactly my first choice for the Nobel Peace Prize."
Because of his leadership position, the Hoosier State lawmaker is considered a key player in securing any significant support for the Syrian airstrike among his 36 fellow Republicans serving their first term. Newsmax learned that last Wednesday airstrike supporter and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia held a conference call on the issue with 25 of the freshmen.
"Most of those on the call were either against action, leaning against any action or undecided," Messer said. Along with Messer, fellow freshman Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas — a GOP Senate candidate in 2014 — is considered one of a handful of their class supportive of the administration's position on Syria.
"It's clear from the evidence that Assad has gassed his people with chemical weapons and is responsible for the murder of hundreds of children," Messer said. "Iran, North Korea, and dictatorships elsewhere are watching carefully how we respond."
Making it clear that he was "no fan of this president and especially his mismanagement of foreign policy," Messer said he felt Obama "compounded an already difficult situation when he spoke to the nation from the Rose Garden and did not call Congress back into session immediately."
"He didn't convey a sense of urgency on Syria and raised some real questions about how interested he is in a serious response," Messer said.
Messer said he believes any strike against Syria "has to be serious and strong and not just dropping bombs on an empty tent."
"I recognize the arguments whether the president needed to call on Congress for support and have heard both sides," he said, adding that he was one of the lawmakers who signed a letter to the president urging consultation with Congress on Syria. "But now that he has sought a vote from Congress, he must abide by it. Failure to do so would set off a constitutional crisis."
Noting the sentiments voiced by Syrian skeptics in Congress that they might feel differently about the vote with a different president in the White House, Messer said: "I understand that completely. But we can't stop being Americans because of an ineffective commander in chief."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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