Harris says he's leaning against vote on Syria

WASHINGTON -- The only Republican member of Maryland's congressional delegation -- and the only veteran -- said Tuesday he currently does not support U.S. military intervention in Syria.

"The decision to engage militarily is one of the most serious a member of Congress can make, and, although at this point I would not vote for military intervention, I plan to examine all of the evidence before making a decision," Rep. Andy Harris of Baltimore County said in a statement.


The statement came hours after GOP leaders in the House of Representatives, including Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, said they would support a resolution to use force in Syria. Lawmakers are expected to vote on a resolution authorizing strikes as early as next week.

"America has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially by a terrorist state such as Syria, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest to the United States," Cantor said in a statement Tuesday.


Harris, an anesthesiologist,  served in the Naval Medical Corps. He was on active duty during Operation Desert Storm, achieved the rank of commander and retired in 2005.

His statement makes him the first in Maryland's delegation to say he's leaning against voting for a strike.

"I appreciate President Obama fulfilling his constitutional obligation by seeking congressional authorization before using military force in Syria," Harris said. "There are serious questions about whether taking military action against Syria is in our national security interest and how the United States should respond to nations around the world who use chemical weapons against their own citizens."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Montgomery County Democrat, has raised concerns about the broadness of the resolution drafted by the White House but has said he would "support a narrowly drawn resolution to authorize military force so long as it is limited in scope and purpose."

By a 48 percent to 29 percent margin, more Americans oppose airstrikes in Syria than support them, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

President Barack Obama has called for a prompt vote in Congress on the resolution.

"The military plan that has been developed by the joint chiefs and that I believe is appropriate is proportional.  It is limited.  It does not involve boots on the ground.  This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan," Obama said Tuesday.