By George Talbot
Congress faces a tough decision as lawmakers prepare to return to Washington, D.C., next week, when they must vote on whether to authorize military airstrikes against Syria for using chemical weapons.
President Barack Obama's move to seek approval from Congress before taking action sets up one of the most controversial foreign policy votes since the 2002 authorization of the Iraq War.
Read: President Obama's letter to Congress requesting action in Syria
Citizens in Alabama's 1st Congressional District won't have a representative in Washington for the vote. The seat has been vacant since Aug. 2, when U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, resigned to take a job as a chancellor at the University of Alabama System in Tuscaloosa.
There are 12 candidates running to fill the seat in a special election this fall, with party primaries set for Sept. 24.
We asked each of them to respond to a straightforward question: Should the U.S. intervene in Syria?
Eight of the 12 responded, and we'll publish their answers below.
The four who did not respond were Republicans Daniel Dyas, Wells Griffith and Sharon Powe and Democrat Lula Albert-Kaigler. Updated at 8:30 a.m. to include response from Griffith.
Here's how the candidates answered the question:
Jessica James (R):
"No. The U.S. should not intervene in Syria."
Bradley Byrne (R):
"The President has not convinced me there is a justifiable reason for the United States to get involved in Syria. Before we spend American tax dollars fighting in another country's civil war across the globe, I'd like to see that money spent here at home on critical projects like additional spans of I-10 across Mobile Bay which solve a major national and local problem."
Quin Hillyer (R):
"The humanitarian crisis in Syria is heart-rending. Unfortunately, if we apply the Reagan/Weinberger Doctrine, we see no clear and obvious objectives or endgames. Unless such objectives become very well defined, I would stay out. Meanwhile, the safety of Israel should be a paramount consideration."
James Hall (I):
"I must preface my answer with a caveat. Currently, I have zero inside information on what could be a positive outcome of intervention in Syria. The only information that I am privy to is what I can glean from news outlets.
"With that being said, I am not in favor of military action in Syria. The administration is trying to justify a strike by essentially saying that the United States is the world's police force. I am totally opposed to that premise. I do not see any single positive outcome for us. Nothing that we do in Syria will lead to any advancement on the war on terror, economic benefits, or future political influence in the region. There are many possible negative outcomes which ultimately could result in another global conflict.
"With the information that I have now, I am opposed to any action in Syria."
Dean Young (R):
"At this moment, from where I'm sitting and what I know, which is very limited, I do not think we should intervene in Syria. Our Constitution gives the power to declare war to the U.S. Congress not Barack Hussein Obama. The U.S. Congress should receive a full briefing on exactly what is happening and why the president thinks we should go to war."
Chad Fincher (R):
"I have very serious reservations and concerns about the United States invading Syria. As a congressman, before I would ever vote to send our men and women into harm's way there would have to be a clear objective and a concrete exit strategy in place which I believe our President has not yet provided to Congress regarding an invasion into Syria."
David "Thunder" Thornton (R):
"A brief answer to the question of whether we should go into Syria at the present time is 'No.' Our nation's leaders have numerous times, both recently and even farther in the past, formulated plans and carried out intervention due to their poor diplomatic strategy. We seem to be led into these situations by individuals who feel military force is a problem solver and do not know how to deal with long range problems.
"There needs to be a diplomatic plan using our nation's integrity as a strength in negotiations. By repeatedly using military force as a solution undermines our nation's integrity and reduces the respect we have from the nations of the world. There are times to use military force as a means of last resort but it should not be used where it compounds and does not solve a particular conflict."
Burton LeFlore (D)
"The U.S. should not intervene in Syria at this time. However, Congress should make a clear and unequivocal statement to Syria and the world that the United States will intervene if there is further evidence of chemical warfare."
Wells Griffith (R)
"We cannot deny what is happening in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy on a massive scale. Unfortunately, like so many issues, this has turned in to a public affairs exercise for President Obama after showing zero leadership on a destabilizing Middle East.
"President Obama owes the American people an explanation about what his intentions are in regards to Syria. The President has failed to lay out a coherent policy in regards to Syria and the Middle East as a whole, and as a result our standing in the region has been weakened. I am thankful that President Obama has respected the Constitution and sought the approval of Congress, but I believe that before any vote can occur we must have a clear assessment of the facts and proposed solutions in the best interests of America.
"As your representative I will always look out for the safety of our men and women in uniform and base decisions on American interests at home and abroad. While much of the information being reviewed by elected leaders remains classified, I look forward to a transparent and robust debate in the congress before any vote."