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Utah congressional delegation not sold on Syria strikes

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 11:22 a.m. MDT

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Tuesday he's opposed to President Barack Obama's call for missile strikes against Syria because he doesn't "want to send a Hallmark card" to the Middle East nation.

"If we're going to go to war, go with everything we've got and win. A pre-announced, limited strike, I don't know that solves the long-term problem," Chaffetz said.

But he said while last month's deadly chemical weapon attack tied to the Syrian government is "a tragic, awful situation," it does not appear to be enough to warrant a military response from the United States.

"If there is a clear and present danger to the United States, then of course I want the president to act, and swiftly. But I don't see that in this case," Chaffetz said, adding he has not heard support for U.S. action from his 3rd District constituents.

Utah's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, said he was "not convinced we should be doing this," even though he condemned the horrific acts in Syria.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions," Matheson said, including what the strikes are intended to actually accomplish and what the U.S. exit strategy for the conflict is.

Matheson said he's "hearing a hesitancy about moving forward" from his constituents in the 4th District. "This is a complicated issue, to be honest with you. It really is."

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said in a statement that he finds the situation in Syria "very troubling, leaving very little doubt that a critical line has been crossed."

But Stewart said before deciding how to vote, he wants more specifics on the strikes.

"Once I have all of the facts about the proposed military plan, I will make a decision as to the best way to protect our national security and strategic interest," the 2nd District congressman said.

Neither of Utah's senators have decided whether they support the action.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he was pleased the president chose to seek congressional approval before proceeding with military action in Syria. Congress will be asked to back a resolution authorizing the strikes.

"Although I have yet to hear a persuasive argument that intervention in Syria is necessary to protect U.S. national security," Obama has "the chance to make that case to Congress and the American people," Lee said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, "is reviewing all the intelligence and arguments for and against a military strike in Syria before making a decision about whether to support" the congressional authorization, his office said.

Earlier Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced he would "support the president's call to action" in Syria after meeting with Obama. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., joined Boehner in backing the president.

Other Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democratic leaders, are also supporting Obama even as polls show voters oppose the strikes.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found nearly six in 10 Americans oppose the strikes, while an earlier NBC News poll found 42 percent supported military action.

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