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Black Congressional Members Asked to Keep Quiet on Syria

As the Obama administration tries to pressure Congress into approving military action in Syria—a move opposed by a majority of the American public—members of the Congressional Black Caucus are the focus of increased attention. Rep. Marcia Fudge, the caucus chairwoman, sent out a note asking CBC members to keep mum on Syria.

Though several prominent African-American members of Congress, including Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) have publicly expressed their opposition to the war, Fudge asked members to “limit public comment” on the issue until they are briefed by senior administration officials. 

Fudge spokeswoman Ayofemi Kirby told The Cable her boss’s request was intended to make sure members were informed, rather than to silence anti-war members.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is considered one of the more hawkish bodies in Congress, approved a resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria by a vote of 10-7, allowing the president to carry out a strike within a 60-day period, with a 30-day extension. However, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is still split. The full Senate is expected to vote early next week.

The Congressional Black Caucus is considered a swing bloc on the issue, since the president is unlikely to get support from Republicans in the House. 

“It’s my obligation to speak out and say what my thought process is,” Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), a member of the CBC and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Cable. “I think it’s important for me to step forward and make some statements. These are very personal matters.”

Meeks said he wants to see the White House build an international coalition before he could vote for a strike against Syria.

“This is an international violation, therefore it it needs an international response,” he said. “We don’t have NATO, we don’t have the Arab League, we don’t have the U.N.”

But Rangel had no such hesitancy.

“Enough is enough,” said Rangel. “I don’t see how I could be persuaded.”

“If I felt for one minute that my nation was in danger, and I’m 83, I would volunteer and do something to protect her. But I’ll be damned if I see anything worth fighting for.”

Asked if his constituents had any appetite for a war with Syria, Rangel bluntly said, “In answer to your question: Hell no.”

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