Lawmakers get ready to debate

President Obama’s announcement on Saturday that he will seek congressional approval for any military action to halt the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government of Bashar Assad, seems to please most federal lawmakers, but the ultimate decision is still contentious.

In an interview last week, local U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Republican, opposed intervention and said Obama should avoid taking any action without Congressional approval.

“Absent an imminent threat to our national security, I do not support military intervention in Syria,” Thompson said in an e-mail reply to a Times Observer query. “Should the president believe the situation in Syria poses such a threat, it’s imperative that he makes the case before Congress so that elected representatives have an opportunity to put action to a vote. At this point, it remains unclear as to what goals intervention would achieve.”

On Saturday, the President did just that.

On Sunday Thompson issued the following statement:

“I commend the President for suggesting that he will seek congressional approval for any military actions against Syria. While the reports of chemical weapons usage are deeply troubling and there has been a profound loss of civilian lives, many questions remain unanswered. I am pleased the United Nations placed an investigative team on the ground to collect additional evidence.

“Despite the President’s conclusion that the United States should take military action against the Assad Regime, I believe it remains very unclear as to what goals America’s intervention would achieve. I look forward to hearing more from the White House and to having a robust debate in the House.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Pat Toomey, also a Pennsylvania Republican, issued a statement Wednesday on the issue.

“It appears to be an established fact that Assad has used chemical weapons repeatedly in an indiscriminate slaughter of his own civilians,” the statement read. “These weapons and his behavior pose a national security risk to the U.S. This calls for an American response, being mindful to avoid a long-term military engagement in the Syrian civil war. The President must explain to Congress and the American people the objectives and risks of any action.”

No clear evidence has been released publicly as to which side in the Syrian conflict was behind the Aug. 21 attack.

U.N. inspectors working on investigating the attack left the country on Saturday. Their findings will not be released until after chemical analyses of samples from the area are completed, a process which could take as much as a week to complete.