On Syria, Senator Heitkamp Gives A Lawyer’s Answer

Heidi Heitkamp

President Barack Obama has announced that he’ll seek authorization from Congress for war in Syria (while also claiming he has the authority to act alone). But before the President made that announcement, North Dakota and Minnesota’s federal delegations were asked for their views on the situation, and most of them gave clear answers.

Senator John Hoeven told Forum Communications that the President must ask Congress for permission to get involved in Syria, and that he wouldn’t give his support for a war until the President made a clear case for it and secured backing from organizations like NATO.

Rep. Kevin Cramer also said that Obama must ask Congress, and said he’s waiting to hear the President articulate his case for war.

Rep. Colin Peterson said that he neither supports war in Syria, nor supports President Obama taking the country to war there without Congress.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken says he supports Obama on Syria and doesn’t think the President needs Congressional approval.  Senator Amy Klobuchar said the President must ask Congress, but didn’t indicate whether or not she’d support a war.

Agree or disagree with them, these are all clear and articulate positions as far as they go. And among them, Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s nuanced, lawyerly stance sticks out like a sore thumb:

In a statement, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp stopped short of calling for congressional approval for any action, but urged Obama to “openly consult with Congress and the American people to explain the need for action.”

“The Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons is reprehensible. But we need to be very careful about entering a conflict abroad — even in a limited scope,” the North Dakota Democrat said.

Does Senator Heitkamp support action in Syria? We don’t know. Does she think Obama needs to get approval from Congress for a war? We don’t know. Because instead of being a leader, Senator Heitkamp has decided to ride the fence.

Not exactly what voters who heard Heitkamp campaign on a platform of being an independent, even defiant Democrat would expect.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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