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Inside the Beltway

Washington politics and government with a New Mexico flavor

N.M. congressional delegation deeply divided on Syria plan

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As New Mexico’s congressional delegation monitors developments in Syria, it remains deeply divided about the best course of action.

So far, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., have announced their opposition to even a limited strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., announced his support Monday night for President Obama’s plan to militarily punish Assad for using chemical weapons on innocent civilians, including women and children. Protesters were planning to gather outside Heinrich’s Albuquerque office at  12 p.m. MT today to denounce his decision.

Thus, the only two wildcards remaining in the New Mexico delegation are Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan, both Democrats. News that Russia may broker a diplomatic deal with Syria to identify and dispose of its chemical weapons could negate the need for any military action at all – a development that could also save Lujan and Lujan Grisham from having to declare a position or cast a vote on the president’s deeply divisive proposal.

Here’s what each had to say following Obama’s prime-time speech on the subject Tuesday night.

“The recent developments involving Russia and the effort to have Syria turn over all of its chemical weapons to the international community is a positive step and one that the President is right to aggressively pursue,” Lujan said. “We cannot forget Russia’s long history of supporting the Assad regime, and it will be vital to examine the specific details of this plan. If Syria is serious about fully complying in a timely manner so that these awful weapons can never be used again on innocent people, then the United States should give this diplomatic process an opportunity while working with allies on an international effort.”

“I am encouraged that the United States and the international community are exploring diplomatic efforts that would prevent Syria from using chemical weapons against its own people,” Lujan Grisham said. “I’m reviewing all of the evidence and considering our options, and look forward to receiving additional briefings from the Administration in the coming days.”

Pearce, a Republican who voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, said America can’t afford deeper involvement in the Middle East. On Tuesday, he announced support for legislation that would withhold any U.S. funding for a military intervention in Syria.

“The American soldier has sacrificed enough, and the American taxpayer has footed the bill for too long,” Pearce said in a statement after Obama’s speech Tuesday night. “It is time for other countries to shoulder the burden.  Over the past few years, with revolutions throughout the Middle East, we have seen greater instability. The President has stated publicly that a change in the Syrian regime is necessary, but I’m afraid that greater American involvement will only make it more unstable.”

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