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The Brief: Sept. 4, 2013

President Obama may have swayed congressional leaders on Syria, but many Texans in Washington remain unconvinced.

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The Big Conversation

President Barack Obama may have swayed congressional leaders on Syria, but many Texans in Washington remain unconvinced.

After a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, the two top House Republicans, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, announced their support for military action in Syria in response to evidence that the government there launched a chemical weapons attack.

But U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who attended the meeting, held off on backing Obama's current proposal. "Unfortunately, many questions are still left unanswered," Cornyn said, according to the Houston Chronicle, adding that the president "needs to explain in detail what vital national interests are at stake, his plan for securing those interests and a clear definition of what success looks like in Syria."

Cornyn's home-state colleague, Republican Ted Cruz, echoed Cornyn's concerns, saying Obama had boxed himself in by drawing a "red line" on chemical attacks. "It seems the president is trying to protect his public relations, because he drew a red line and, essentially, the bluff was called," Cruz said on Glenn Beck's radio show.

Among Texans in the House, most Republicans remain either undecided or opposed to intervention, as The Dallas Morning News reports.

"I’m still grappling with what’s in the national security interest of the United States," said Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican who serves on the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. "I worry about the cons of doing nothing. I also worry about the consequences of a limited action."

Reps. Joe Barton of Arlington, Ralph Hall of Rockwall and John Culberson of Houston are among the Republicans who have voiced opposition to military action.

And while many congressional Democrats have expressed cautious support, some — like Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, who held a forum on the matter Tuesday — are still weighing whether to side with the president or with their anti-war or war-weary constituencies. 

"What we are talking about, ladies and gentlemen, is going to war — however it is declared, however it is articulated," O'Rourke said at the forum, where emotions ran high, as the Tribune's Julián Aguilar reports.


•    Pitts Says He Wrote Law School Letter for His Son (The Texas Tribune): "State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, has acknowledged writing a law school recommendation for his son but strongly denied attempting to exert any undue influence over the admission process. 'Did I ever call for my son — or the over one hundred people I’ve recommended over the years — and ask for special treatment?' he asked. 'No, I did not.'"

•    Texas Guard Refuses to Process Same-Sex Benefits (The Associated Press): "The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits on Tuesday despite a Pentagon directive to do so, while Mississippi won't issue applications from state-owned offices. Both states cited their respective bans on gay marriage. Tuesday was the first working day that gays in the military could apply for benefits after the Pentagon announced it would recognize same-sex marriages."

•    Christie to Raise Money for GOP in Texas (AP): "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is helping the Republican National Committee with a series of Texas fundraisers next week as he seeks a second term in his home state. Christie is headlining three fundraisers in Texas for the RNC on Sept. 9. Organizers say the events include a breakfast in Dallas, a luncheon in San Antonio and a reception in Houston."

•    Pastors gather to endorse city's nondiscrimination proposal (San Antonio Express-News): "On the same city hall steps where a gathering of religious leaders last week objected to a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance, another clergy group Tuesday voiced support, citing Scripture and belief as informing their call to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

Quote to Note: "Let the international community and some of the other nations who always ask us to do their dirty work, let them get involved." — U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, to The Dallas Morning News on whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria


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