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Congressional Black Caucus told to be quiet on Syria

cbc1The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus dissuaded members from speaking publicly about the Obama administration’s efforts to rally support for military action against Syria, multiple media outlets report.

Numerous publications reported that Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, sent an email to caucus members asking them “to limit public comment” on the Syria debate. One CBC member countered that Fudge is attempting to quiet the growing chorus of opposition in Congress to U.S. airstrikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Syrian leader is accused of using chemical weapons to kill at least a thousand citizens in Syria, including hundreds of children.

Fudge denied trying to muffle the voices of the 40-member organization. Her spokeswoman, Ayofemi Kirby, told the media the congresswoman wanted to ensure that members had all the information available before making up their minds. The CBC is scheduled to receive a classified briefing on Syria from newly appointed White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice this coming Monday.

“The chair believes Congress and the American public need more information, and she awaits more briefings between now and early next week before commenting further,” Kirby said in an interview with The Hill. 

With more than 40 members, the CBC will likely be a crucial voting bloc in putting together the bipartisan coalition of House members that the White House will need to pass the Syria authorization. The full chamber will return next week to debate the measure.

Fudge’s efforts did could not quell all dissension. Some CBC members broke ranks in a pronounced way.

  • Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., told The Wall Street Journal said he would vote against military action against Syria if he had to cast his vote today.
  • Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., told Foreign Policy, “I’ll be damned if I see anything worth fighting for” in the Syrian civil war conflict, which has dragged on for more than two years.
  • Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., got 64 signatures from 64 Democrats requesting that Obama seek congressional permission before moving forward with airstrikes.

Speaking of voting, the John McCain, R-Ariz.-led Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 to move against Syria. The Senate will vote on the measure next week.