The dean of Maryland's congressional delegation and a prominent voice in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, said on Monday that she supports giving President Barack Obama authorization to strike Syria.
"I believe the president's plan is the best response to protecting U.S. security interests in the region," Mikulski, the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said during a lengthy speech on the Senate floor.
"Therefore…after really great reflection and as much due diligence as I could do, I want to announce today to my colleagues and most of all to the people of Maryland who have supported me, that I will support the president's request for a targeted, limited military action against the Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in response to the horrific, grim and ghoulish use of chemical weapons," she said.
The decision is potentially significant for members of Maryland's congressional delegation -- most of whom remain undecided on airstrikes in Syria -- as well as Democrats elsewhere who have been wary of the proposal. But it also came hours before Senate Democratic leaders said they would delay a vote on the measure set for Wednesday after several other lawmakers announced their opposition.
Mikulski, the longest serving woman in Congress, was one of 19 senators who voted against the Iraqi war resolution in 2002.
The announcement came as support for military action in Congress appeared increasingly questionable. It also came as Obama said he was open to an idea floated by Russia on Monday that Syria place its chemical weapons under international control and eventually destroy them in order to avoid a U.S. strike.
Maryland's other senator, Democrat Ben Cardin, has already cast a vote in favor of the resolution in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Senate had been expected to bring the measure to the floor for a key procedural vote on Wednesday, a day after Obama is set to address the nation. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said late Monday that vote would be postponned.
Mikulski said she has heard from thousands of constituents and acknowledged that the vast majority opposed military intervention. She emerged from a classified briefing last week saying she was confident Assad had used the weapons but undecided about whether a military strike was the best response.
"They don't want war," Mikulski said of her constituents. "And neither do I."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun