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Vermont Press Bureau: Welch: Congress should debate possible declaration of war

November 17, 2015
In The News

By Josh O'Gorman

BARRE — Vermont’s lone congressman said it’s time for Congress to debate if the U.S. should go to war in Syria.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said Monday that, in light of recent attacks by ISIS that claimed the lives of nearly 200 people in Beirut and Paris, Congress needs to discuss what role the United States should play in response.

“Congress has to debate an authorization to use military force,” Welch said. “We’ve been on the sidelines, and I’ve been advocating for a congressional debate to take place and I think this is going to intensify the urgency of Congress doing that.”

Welch asserted that any debate will be belated, given the fact the United States is already engaged in military action in Syria, a failed state seen by most as the home of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS.

“The fact is, we have been engaged in what we can call a war,” Welch said. “We’ve been engaging in air strikes. We lost a soldier who was on a rescue mission in Syria in a combat fatality. Those are acts when you are involved in a war.”

Welch said he has supported President Barack Obama’s mostly hands-off policy toward Syria, noting the president is under pressure from some congressional Republicans to deploy what Welch called “another occupation-style force in the region in Iraq and Syria.”

“I disagree with that, largely because it won’t work, and we see what happens when the American military steps up and it’s our responsibility for dealing with historic problems that ultimately need to be solved in the Middle East, where the Sunni-Shiite divide continues unabated,” Welch said.

Instead, Welch said he would like to see the United States play a smaller, supporting role in a coalition led by countries in the Middle East.

“I think the U.S. should play a supporting role, and the supporting role needs to be part of a larger coalition, and we should have a discussion and debate about what the extent of that is,” Welch said. “When we don’t even have a debate on the authorization to use military force, Congress is putting itself on the sidelines when it has to be asserting the responsibility Congress has when there are hostilities.”