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Shuster awaits evidence before making decision about Syria

by on September 07, 2013 10:59 AM

Although he questions whether an attack against Syria would be in the best interests of national security, Rep. Bill Shuster said Friday he will wait to hear the president’s case for it before deciding whether he will support such an action.

But based on what he’s heard so far from the administration, the president has failed to show why an attack is warranted, Shuster said.

Shuster’s comments came during a meeting with the Gazette’s editorial board Friday afternoon. Shuster stopped by for a visit and talked about the situation in Syria and the pending water resources development bill his committee is working on, among other things.

As for Syria, Shuster said that given what President Bashar al-Assad has done to his people, his demise can’t come soon enough. But, he said, whether the U.S. should involve itself in the situation without a broad coalition of international support is another matter.

Shuster also said he worries about unintended consequences of an attack.

“My biggest concern is — and nobody’s answered this question — how are we going to be reassured that weakening the Assad regime is not going to allow the rebels, the bad rebels, which are al-Qaida, and they’re there, to be able to get weapons of mass destruction. As bad as (Assad) is, he’s not shooting (weapons of mass destruction) at Israel. He’s not shooting them at Jordan or Turkey or us. And there’s no doubt in my mind that al-Qaida wants to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction.”

Shuster said that from what he’s observed, there doesn’t appear to be much congressional support for U.S. intervention, and he believes that any move to authorize an attack could wind up being overwhelmingly defeated.

He said there are no plans to undertake a lobbying effort to sway votes either way.

“That’s not going to happen. This is a vote of conscience,” he said.

And if Congress generally doesn’t think an attack is warranted, neither, apparently, do his constituents, Shuster said. He said the lion’s share of calls his offices have received have been opposed to an attack.

His staff members have counted close to 600 calls regarding Syria, and of those, about 585 have been from people urging him to reject military action.

He said his counterparts in states where support for any type of military action usually isn’t hard to come by are hearing similar opposition from constituents.

In other matters, Shuster, who is chairman of the House transportation and infrastructure committee, said he and committee members are getting ready to begin marking up the Water Resources Reform and Development Act when they return next week.

Shuster said the bill contains significant reforms and would streamline the process by which infrastructure projects on the nation’s waterways are approved.

He’s described the bill as a jobs bill, helping to ensure that goods are able to cost effectively reach international markets.

And speaking of moving from place to place, Shuster spoke a bit about his ride in a driverless car earlier this week.

The car, built by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, took Shuster and PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch from Cranberry Township in Butler County to Pittsburgh International Airport, where it pulled itself up to within a few steps of the speaker’s stand where Shuster spoke after the ride was over.

Shuster said the car, a Cadillac SRX, was in stop-and-go traffic and sped up to 65 mph on the open highway. He said there was only one time that a person sitting behind the wheel for safety had to take control from the computer.

But other than that, he said the vehicle managed all on its own.

“The first couple of lights, I was pretty white-knuckled,” he said.

Sam Kusic is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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