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Syria crisis: Dovish Democrats urge Obama to consult Congress

In a letter, 54 Democratic lawmakers urged Obama Thursday to 'seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any US military engagement to this complex crisis.'

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President Obama pauses while speaking at Henninger High School in Syracuse, N.Y., Aug. 22, 2013. Lawmakers sent a letter to the White House Thursday 'expressing unequivocal condemnation over the news that chemical weapons were reportedly used by the government of Syria' but also cautioning against bypassing Congress.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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With Washington focused on the prospect of military action in Syria as retaliation for the apparent use of chemical weapons by its government, whither Congress’s more liberal members?

It seems the doves have a dilemma. To support their Democratic president in the quest to right a humanitarian wrong? Or to back the institutional protections that require congressional approval before a White House can engage in anything resembling war?

“There’s a certain wing in the Democratic Party that’s pacifist that doesn’t support the use of force in most instances, except in the case of an attack on the US,” says Brian Katulis, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress. “I don’t think they’re going to move.”

These and other Democrats are also concerned that public opinion isn’t yet in favor of military intervention in Syria. Mr. Obama should not move forward with military action, they say, without a full congressional review and members’ approval.

Spearheaded by Rep. Barbara Lee (D) of California, 54 Democratic members, many of whom made up the coalition of those opposed to the last Iraq war, sent a letter to the White House Thursday “expressing unequivocal condemnation over the news that chemical weapons were reportedly used by the government of Syria” but also cautioning against bypassing Congress. The apparent human rights violations there “should not draw us into an unwise war,” they write.

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