South Carolina lawmakers divided on backing Syria strike

The direction of South Carolina’s congressional delegation remains murky over how it will follow President Obama’s call for a military strike on Syria.

Only three of the nine members — U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford, Joe Wilson and Jeff Duncan, or representatives of their staff — gave statements Friday confirming they do not plan to support the president’s push for U.S. intervention. All are Republicans.

Sanford, R-1st District, and who lives in Charleston, said that unless a previously undisclosed batch of compelling information surfaces in the coming days, he will not back using American assets to target sites inside Syria.

“I think it’s pretty solid that people are feeling uneasy about yet another military engagement in the Middle East,” he said.

Sanford said there are too many unanswered questions “about the strategy, or the lack thereof, of what the administration hopes to accomplish.”

He questioned what would mark the exit point.

Charleston’s other resident lawmaker, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was not available for an interview Friday, his office said. A statement issued by his press secretary did not address backing an aerial strike but quoted Scott opposing “U.S. boots on the ground.”

Heading into the weekend, senators and congressmen in both chambers expressed doubts the White House will get the support numbers the administration is seeking to back a retaliatory strike following reports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fatally used chemical weapons against his own people.

A New York Times tabulation put 25 senators and 42 House members in the president’s “support” camp, with the other 466 members listed as either being undecided, opposed or who could not be reached.

Even cloudier is what the resolutions on a proposed strike action might resemble after the issue is debated on the respective floors.

Elsewhere in the delegation, South Carolina’s senior U.S. senator, Republican Lindsey Graham, hasn’t said yes or no on the strike resolution, his office said Friday.

But while touring the state this week, Graham called for the United States to launch an effective attack at Syria, even as he acknowledged the stance may not be popular in an election season.

“Our good options are in the rearview mirror,” Graham said, pointing to the White House’s slow handling of the situation so far.

“We’re choosing between bad and worse. A year from now, we’ll be choosing between terrible and catastrophic,” he added.

Obama, however, may have drawn a more favorable view from U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-6th District, the only Democrat in the delegation.

Clyburn’s office said Friday he is still undecided on the strike vote and will wait until after a meeting with National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Monday to make a decision.

Clyburn, of Columbia, sent out a tweet this week summing up his latest position, after he had told The Post and Courier a week ago that he saw no need to move hastily on Syria.

“Issues of war & peace require thoughtful consideration,” it said. “I reserve judgment on Syria until a resolution and more details are forthcoming.”

Meanwhile, a statement Friday from Upstate 4th District Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy’s office indicated he is still reviewing the debate, but is more against the idea than for it.

“Congressman Gowdy has not yet completed analyzing the data and fully considering the positions of his constituents and colleagues; however, at this point, he says there is a rebuttable presumption against military engagement,” said communications director Amanda Duvall.

Those in the delegation still studying the idea include Mick Mulvaney, of the state’s 5th Congressional District, around Rock Hill, and Tom Rice, of the 7th Congressional District, around Florence and the Grand Strand, according to office contacts and published reports. Both are Republicans.



Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.

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