Levin: Public opinion can’t guide decision on striking Syria's Assad

Lawmakers should not be looking to the polls to shape their views on military action in Syria, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Wednesday.

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Levin pushed back against lawmakers who have said they can't support military strikes due to overwhelming public opposition, arguing that polls should not be a factor in the decision.

Levin, who supports military action in Syria, cited his vote against the war in Iraq in 2002, when public opinion was on the side of authorizing military force.

“I just don’t think you can be guided, when it comes to this kind of an issue, by public opinion polls,” Levin said at a breakfast with reporters Wednesday.

On Syria, public opinion has squarely sided against President Obama in the past week, as the public remains war weary after a decade of conflict in the Middle East.

Obama’s inability to turn around public opinion also set many lawmakers against military action, making the odds long that Obama would win a vote to authorize force.

That vote is now on hold, but Levin said that he still wants to see Congress move toward a vote on an alternate Syria resolution that would tie diplomatic options to the threat of military strikes.

Asked about the timing of the vote, Levin said it was too soon to say because the new language had not been drafted.

It would also depend on whether the votes were there to pass the resolution.

“The last thing you want to do is remove that pressure. You can’t have language that’s going to lose because at that point there’s less pressure for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad," Levin said.