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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rep. Lois Frankel: The face of undecided lawmakers on Syria



WASHINGTON — Rep. Lois Frankel was at the White House listening to the case for military strikes against Syria when the vice president broke the news: President Barack Obama was changing direction to pursue a diplomatic solution.

Relief washed over Frankel, a Democrat from West Palm Beach who had been deeply conflicted.

The feeling didn't last.

If the volatile attempt at diplomacy fails, Frankel knows she will face the agonizing decision anew. And even if a deal to strip Syria of chemical weapons somehow materializes, Congress could be asked to vote on strikes as a backup.

So Frankel continues to grapple with her anti-war convictions, a loyalty to the president and what she views as a duty to study the facts, much of it classified, not just public opinion. As a Jew, she feels a special tug, the gassing of Syrians stirring memories of the Holocaust.

"It's agonizing," she said in an interview. "I have not stopped thinking about Syria since the moment the whole thing erupted and the president said he was going to come to Congress. I feel like I'm possessed."

A freshman lawmaker serving in the minority is a speck in Washington's power grid, but on this decision, Frankel could matter greatly as one of the undecided votes. Beyond that, her dilemma illuminates larger truths about the problem Obama faces — as of now, he would likely lose the vote, a crushing blow — and the intense pressure lawmakers are under, from lobbying by the administration to overwhelming opposition in their districts.

"I really and truly would like to stand behind my president," said Frankel, who has had White House staffers check in on her. "But I have come to the conclusion that I'll be doing my job whether I can stand behind him or I can say, 'Mr. President I think you are making a mistake.' "

Full story here.

[Last modified: Friday, September 13, 2013 10:09am]


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