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Published September 04, 2013, 09:50 AM

Syria draws Congress members back to DC

Some members of the North Dakota and Minnesota congressional delegations are heading back to Washington early to discuss potential military action against Syria.

By: John Hageman, Grand Forks Herald

Some members of the North Dakota and Minnesota congressional delegations are heading back to Washington early to discuss potential military action against Syria.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., planned to return to the capital Tuesday night “to participate in briefings and hold meetings to discuss the potential use of force in Syria,” according to a statement released earlier in the day. She canceled events in North Dakota scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

Heitkamp, however, said she has not made a decision on how she will vote.

“The potential use of force in Syria is an issue I take seriously, and I will closely study all sides of this debate,” Heitkamp said in the statement. “I will not make a final decision about my vote until I gather the latest intelligence and hear from the (Obama) Administration and my constituents.”

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., arrived in Washington Sunday for a classified briefing at the White House after cutting short a trip to Boundary Waters Canoe Area, according to his spokesman Ed Shelleby. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will return this week to be briefed by U.S. State Department and military officials, according to spokeswoman Brigit Helgen.

Other members of Congress from North Dakota don’t appear to have plans to return to Washington until the August recess is over on Monday. A vote authorizing the use of force against the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons in its ongoing civil war is expected soon after.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Tuesday he has already participated in several briefings in Washington last week and over the weekend. He plans to return to the capital Sunday.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., doesn’t plan to return early, according to a spokesman. He has several public appearances scheduled this week, including town hall meetings across the state.

Like Heitkamp, some area Congress members haven’t said how they will vote.

Meanwhile, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said in a statement Tuesday he is “opposed to intervention.”

“What's going on in Syria is deplorable, but at this point, I don’t see how U.S. military action will accomplish anything toward ending the turmoil over there or helping the people of Syria, which is my main concern,” Peterson said in the statement.

Hoeven said Tuesday he is “reserving judgment” on potential use of force against Syria until a plan for military action is fully developed. He said President Obama and his administration have to “make the case to the American public.”

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