September 5, 2013

Flood of Syria opposition puts pressure on Maine's lawmakers

'In all my years of public service, this is just about the most difficult decision I've ever had to deal with,' Angus King says.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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She also participated in a Intelligence Committee briefing Tuesday and plans to attend another Thursday.

"I have also benefited from many conversations with my constituents," Collins said in a prepared statement. "At this point, I have not reached a decision on how I will vote on this serious matter. I continue to have many questions about the consequences of military action."

King participated in three classified briefings in Washington and attended Tuesday's spirited public hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a spectator, albeit one with a vote on the Senate floor.

"I am genuinely undecided on this," King said in an interview before flying back to Maine. "I am listening and trying to learn as much as I can."

In July, King returned from a fact-finding trip to two of Syria's neighbors -- Jordan and Turkey -- more resolute that the U.S. should play a larger role in ending the Syrian conflict.

King and Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee -- said at the time that the U.S. should work with partner nations to exert additional "military pressure" on the Syrian government without committing ground forces.

They also urged the Obama administration to continue arming "properly vetted" rebel forces and to consider targeted military strikes.

On Wednesday, King said that language calling on the administration to "consider" targeted strikes was as far as he would go at the time, and that he is still weighing the pros and cons of such action.

"There are no good options, there are no easy answers and there is risk" with any response, King said.

Maine's two House members said they plan to attend briefings on Syria after returning to Washington next week. Pingree participated in a briefing with top administration officials via telephone last weekend.

Pingree has said she is "inclined" to vote against authorizing military strikes. Michaud has said he is still undecided.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald.

-- Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@pressherald.com

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