Kerry and Hagel Get Earful From House About Syria

House hearing reveals strong convictions against Syrian intervention.

Protesters stand behind Secretary of State John Kerry as he testifies at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing called "Syria: Weighing the Obama Administrations Response" on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Protesters stand behind Secretary of State John Kerry as he testifies at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

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Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel faced strong opposition during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday as they made their case for military intervention in Syria.

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Conservative lawmakers like Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., took the officials to task, not just for their role in Syria, but for multitudes of foreign affair fumbles that have occurred since President Barack Obama took office, although not on their watches.

Wilson accused the Obama administration of bringing the Syria debate to Congress in an attempt to distract the American public from other issues, such as health care and the attack in Benghazi, which left four people, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, dead.

"Why was there no call for military response in April?" Wilson said during the hearing. "Was it delayed to divert attention today from the Benghazi, IRS, NSA scandals, the failure of Obamacare enforcement, the tragedy of the White House-drafted sequestration or the upcoming debt limit vote?"

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Wilson has gained a reputation as a loud and crass opponent of the Obama administration, shouting "you lie" at the president during his State of the Union address in 2009.

But Wilson wasn't the only one who unloaded on Kerry and Hagel.

Holding up a photograph of a Navy SEAL killed during Benghazi, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., also accused the administration of using Syria to detract from past foreign affairs mishaps.

"Benghazi is germane to the discussions on Syria," Duncan said during the hearing. "The American People deserve answers on Benghazi before we move ahead."

 

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Duncan said no one in his district supports action in the region and that he would oppose it vehemently.

Kerry admonished Duncan's accusations as political and misguided.

"We're talking about people being killed by gas, and you want to go talk about Benghazi," Kerry responded.

Kerry and Hagel were up against some of their toughest Republican and Democratic critics in the House hearing. One member, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., vowed to encourage his colleagues to vote against the resolution to strike Syria.

Other members on the 46-member panel were more supportive of action, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who announced at the hearing that he would vote "yes" for the resolution.

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Kerry faced an onslaught from concerned members who worried a loophole in the resolution allowed for the administration to put "boots on the ground." He assured them that was not the case.

In closing remarks, Kerry urged members of the House to not abdicate their role or leave the U.S. on the sidelines during the conflict.

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