Senator Tom Udall Statement on the Situation in Syria

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) today issued the following statement on the president’s announcement that he will not take military action in Syria without congressional approval:

“The President’s decision to seek congressional approval for military action in Syria is the right call and one I have consistently advocated in accordance with our Constitution and the War Powers Act.

“The use of chemical weapons by Assad and his regime is deplorable and deserves our condemnation, but in a representative democracy, it is the duty of the U.S. Congress to approve any military action that would enter our armed forces into hostilities overseas where there is not an imminent threat to our national security.

“I have worked with members of both parties in the Senate, through legislation and the appropriations process, to ensure the president seeks congressional approval before U.S. military force is used, and I will continue to assert that Congress must approve any force that places our service members into hostilities.

“The president must continue to make his case to the Congress and the American people, and I look forward to the debate we will have before any further action is taken. In the meantime, I remain skeptical about further U.S. involvement in a Syrian civil war and continue to oppose the arming of rebels who may be allied or affiliated with Al Qaeda, and I believe that a concerted diplomatic effort must continue, as well as an effort to provide needed humanitarian aid.

“I will be evaluating the evidence and policy options as well as listening closely to the opinions of New Mexicans.”

Udall, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has been a vocal opponent of further U.S. involvement in Syria. In a speech from the Senate floor on June 17, 2013, he cautioned against embroiling ourselves in the Middle Eastern civil war and was one of only three senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote against arming an unorganized rebel insurgency in Syria.

On June 20, 2013, he introduced bipartisan legislation with Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Rand Paul (R-KY) to prohibit the president from using any funds on activities that would escalate U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Udall successfully included an amendment to the Senate FY 2014 Department of Defense Appropriations bill that would prevent the use of defense funds for any military action in Syria in violation of the War Powers Act. The amendment was approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee by a bipartisan vote of 20-10 on August 1, 2013, but it was not voted on by the full U.S. Senate.