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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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September 4th, 2013
11:23 AM ET

Rep. Wasserman Schultz: As a mother, I have a searing imprint of chemical weapons victims

The White House's case for a military strike on Syria enters Round II Wednesday. Secretary of State John Kerry returns to the Hill, this time to be grilled by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Republican Congressman Michael Burgess has said the case on Syria is thin. Burgess heard the arguments presented before the Senate Tuesday, and the Senate drafted a new resolution later that day limiting authorization for action in Syria.

"I'm still a likely no vote," said Burgess, who said a strike against Syria should perhaps follow the same approach the U.S. took in Iraq.

"I don't think that cruise missiles launched at runways at (Assad's) military installations are going to change his mind much one way or the other. But Saddam Hussein will never use chemical weapons against his own people again, that's perhaps the type of attitude that should be taken toward Bashar al-Assad," said Burgess.

Only a few countries, France among them, have publicly stated a willingness to stand with U.S. military action in Syria. But Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, who attended classified briefings, said more nations are willing to join.

"There are dozens of countries that are ready to stand behind the United States politically, diplomatically, and militarily," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida.

Wasserman Schultz said House members should put aside partisan politics, and pay close attention to national security when debating authorization for action in Syria.

"Are national security interests in question? Yes, no question that our ally Israel, Jordan, Turkey, they would be in jeopardy if there is not a certain and severe response from the United States against Assad's use of chemical weapons," said Wasserman Schultz.

Burgess said if national security interests are at stake in the region "then a limited launch of cruise missiles that you announce well in advance is not going to achieve the desired effect."

"I would be interested in knowing the countries that will be standing with us. That's been problematic. It's like we have a coalition of the invisible here," said Burgess.

Wasserman Schultz said Burgess was at the same classified briefing she attended.

"It was pretty clear, and laid out for us which countries were ready to stand with us militarily. I'm not comfortable sharing that on national television," said the Florida representative. "But the bottom line is, we do have national security interests in jeopardy, and we have interests in the region that must be protected."

Wasserman Schultz also said the U.S. has a "moral imperative" as "the strongest nation on earth" to respond when a dictator violates an international norm against using chemical weapons.

"As a mother, to me, I have an indelible searing imprint on my mind after seeing the pictures of those babies lined up. We have a moral responsibility to respond," said Wasserman Schultz.

"It took 18 years to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for his use of chemical weapons. The moral imperative may take longer than a weekend to play out," said Burgess. "What will make a difference is if you enforce regime change in Syria. Apparently that's not an option. Boots on the ground isn't an option."

"There was no ambiguity about whether boots on the ground would be in question. There will be no boots on the ground," Wasserman Schultz said in response. "So let's not try to lead the people astray here, or create ambiguity."

"If we're not willing to have the follow through, how are you going to effect change in the leadership in Syria? You're not going to do it from the Mediterranean with cruise missiles," said Burgess.


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