Local reps. weigh options

U.S. Congressmen who represent portions of Trumbull and Mahoning counties and Ohio’s U.S. Senators said Tuesday they are continuing to review the matter in Syria.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, said it’s good the president is including Congress on the decision and that he is ”closely reviewing” available intelligence from the attack and options moving forward.

Portman said there is ”solid” evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad regime used chemical weapons.

”The question is what actions are appropriate to take. I look forward to reviewing the specific language in any proposed Congressional Resolution,” Portman said.

President Barack Obama has said 1,429 died from the attack on Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb. Casualty estimates by other groups are far lower, and Assad’s government blames the episode on rebels who have been seeking to overthrow his government in a civil war that began over two years ago. A United Nations inspection team is awaiting lab results on tissue and soil samples it collected while in the country before completing a closely watched report.

U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles, who was among a number of lawmakers who attended a briefing on the situation Sunday in Washington, said any action taken by the U.S. ”must be measured and proportionate, have a clear strategy with contingency plans, and prevent the further loss of life and use use of chemical weapons.”

Obama and administration officials have been meeting with top lawmakers in the House and Senate since last week to gain support for military strikes against Assad’s goverment.

A vote is expected next week when the two chambers return from their summer recess.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said he is encouraged by the president’s desire to make his case and seek Congressional approval before intervening in Syria.

”We need to build international support around clear objectives for ending the violence against the Syrian people,” Brown said.

Mollie Riester, spokeswoman for Congressman Bill Johnson, said the Republican is ”still looking for answers that will persuade him one way or the other” on the necessity of military action in Syria.

Johnson, who represents the southern portion of Mahoning County, who also attended the weekend briefing, said in a statement after he left with ”more questions and concerns” than he had before.

”The decision on whether or not to commit American troops and risk American lives when the United States is not directly threatened is a difficult one, and the president has the heavy burden of convincing Congress and the American people of its merits,” Johnson states in the news release.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.