WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins went to the White House on Thursday to hear President Obama’s chief of staff make a pitch for possible, eventual military action against Syria – but Collins came away unswayed.
“I don’t believe anyone’s mind was changed in the meeting,” the Clarence Republican said after he joined other House Republicans first elected in 2012 for a meeting with chief of staff Denis R. McDonough. “But it was still a good, open discussion.”
The White House called the meeting as it is pursuing a diplomatic solution that would prevent Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from once again using chemical weapons in the civil war that has beset his country since 2011.
An Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in outside Damascus claimed 1,400 lives and prompted the Obama administration to threaten retaliation. But since the possibility surfaced this week that Assad may surrender his chemical weapons, the Obama administration has been pressing for a United Nations resolution that would back that surrender with a threat of force.
Yet McDonough’s argument didn’t go very far with the House Republican freshmen he met with Thursday.
“I don’t believe that having a military option in the resolution is necessary or wanted, but the administration disagrees,” Collins said. “They believe that the threat of a targeted, limited, significant military strike is an important component.”
Overall, though, Collins said he was pleased with the meeting with McDonough, and particularly with the chief of staff’s decision to hand out his phone number and his offer to take calls from the lawmakers on any issue.
On the Syria issue, though, McDonough appeared to be facing an immovable force.
“We certainly disagreed clearly on the use of targeted military strikes,” Collins said. “There were 22 of us in the room, and to a person, we were all opposed to that.”