Middle East/North Africa

Head of Black Caucus asks members to stay quiet on Syria

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has asked members of the group to stay largely silent on Syria until lawmakers receive more information about President Obama’s plan for missile strikes against the war-torn nation.

CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) sent an email Tuesday – via CBC staff – to CBC members asking them “to limit public comment on the issue,” Fudge spokeswoman Ayofemi Kirby said Thursday.

{mosads}“The chair believes Congress and the American public need more information, and she awaits more briefings between now and early next week before commenting further,” Kirby said.

With a growing number of rank-and-file Republicans lining up in opposition to Obama’s intervention proposal, the president will likely need a robust show of support from Democrats to get a use-of-force resolution through the House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who’s emerged as one of the loudest proponents of a Syrian intervention, is working hard to maximize the number of Democratic votes. But liberals in her caucus remain wary that Obama’s plan for missile strikes against the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar Assad could lead to widespread civilian casualties and entrench the United States in another prolonged conflict in the Middle East — all without changing the direction of Syria’s bloody civil war.

The issue is a tough one for black Democrats, caught between a desire to support Obama, the nation’s first black president who remains enormously popular with the CBC, and an inclination to avoid another military campaign overseas.

For that reason, a number of prominent CBC members, including Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, have declined to weigh in on Obama’s proposal.

“Issues of war & peace require thoughtful consideration,” Clyburn tweeted Tuesday. “I reserve judgment on Syria until a resolution and more details are forthcoming.”

Others, however, have not been so silent, and some have emerged as among the most vocal opponents of a Syrian intervention.

“I haven’t really felt that America’s security’s being threatened at all,” Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC Wednesday. “Not even indirectly.”

House Democrats are scheduled to be briefed Monday by senior administration officials, including National Security Adviser Susan Rice, on Obama’s Syria plans.

Fudge’s email was first reported Thursday by Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog. 

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