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Foreign Affairs Chairman on the Fence on Syria

If the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee opposes authorizing military action in Syria, could a resolution still pass the House? We might soon find out the answer.

Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, who currently wields the gavel on the panel, signaled Wednesday that he might not yet be on board.

At his committee’s hearing on the issue, Royce said that striking Syria as a means of deterrence was “an important consideration,” but, as he put it, “there are concerns.”

“The president promises a military operation in Syria of limited scope and duration,” Royce said. “But the Assad regime would have a say in what happens next.”

Noting that “there is no United Nations resolution of support, nor NATO backing,” Royce said he thought everyone was “troubled by the unfortunate lack of international support.”

The California Republican also said “Americans are skeptical of getting near a conflict.”

Royce appears undecided at best, perhaps even leaning against intervention.

He would presumably be essential to any House effort to craft a use of force resolution for Syria, which raises the question of how the House might write one without him. That isn’t clear yet, but Royce would probably take a back seat in drafting the language. And the job may be left to staffers, or leadership, or, perhaps, the Senate.

If Royce refused to sign on, many lawmakers — and the public — would notice.

Whatever the impact, some lawmakers were already speculating about the Senate’s enhanced role on Wednesday.

Former Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said there was a “rumor circulating today that perhaps the House will not have a vote on authorization. That the Senate will and not on the House side.”

Shane Wolfe, a spokesman for the House panel, told CQ Roll Call the rumor was news to him.

“That one I have no idea,” Wolfe said.

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