Capuano discusses Syria, federal priorities at Mattapan session

Separately, Rep. Lynch weighs in on Trump’s Syrian missile strike

National issues consumed the conversation at a town hall meeting hosted by US Congressman Michael Capuano in Mattapan on Monday, with the congressman fielding questions from constituents on Syrian airstrikes and on what the state’s congressional can do about the impact of national policy in a deep blue state.

Elections have consequences, Capuano kept noting throughout the meeting, and Republican-controlled executive and legislative branches necessarily limit Democratic options on policy actions.

Capuano reminded those gathered in the Mildred Avenue Community Center auditorium that the Democratic Party “is not a monolith,” nor is Congress as a whole. “We do fight, a lot,” he said, “but we fight about important issues that have real and serious impacts on people’s lives and are deeply emotional to all of us.”

Capuano advised attendees to brace for a drawn-out congressional struggle, with Democrats largely limited to playing defense. To a woman concerned about her husband’s legal status as the immigration and deportation actions ramp up around the country, Capuano advised her to reach out to his office, but cautioned “it’s going to get worse.”

Conversation on President Trump’s emphasis on more military funding dominated a segment of the meeting as the conversation turned to the US airstrikes on an air base in Syria in response to a chemical attack on a population center that US intelligence says was orchestrated at the direction of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The images from Syria are heartbreaking,” Capuano had said in a statement following the strikes. “So many innocent people were brutally murdered with poisonous gas at the direction of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. I do not dispute that Syria has again used chemical weapons against its own people in contravention of international law and morality, as well as its own assurances to the Security Council that it would not do so. I also share President Trump’s outrage about these atrocities.”

The congressman, however, takes issue with the circumstances of the retaliation. He and US Rep. Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-N.C.), filed a bill last week that would prohibit the use of members of the United States armed forces in carrying out offensive combat operations in Syria and require the president to seek authorization from Congress before engaging in what could be considered an act of war.

“The question is, if we’re willing to go to war, it should be decided by the United States Congress on behalf of the people we represent,” Capuano said at the meeting. “First of all, that’s in the Constitution, and second of all, I don’t think we should be allowed to go to war by the decisions of one person.” Capuano was one of four members of Congress who, in 2011, sued President Obama in an attempt to force him to seek congressional approval for bombing Libya.

Congressman Stephen Lynch also weighed in on the Syrian situation on Monday, calling into Boston Herald Radio while on a trip to Kuwait and Iraq to say that US allies in the region largely approve of the military action. “I think it’s nearly unanimous in terms of this region that they were very supportive that the United States government took action and hopefully that will change Bashar Assad’s conduct going forward, at least with respect to the use of chemical weapons,” he said.

In a statement sent to the Reporter on Tuesday, Lynch asserted that the world should unequivocally oppose the use of chemical weapons against civilians and children. “While the US missile attack against the Assad regime airfield in Syria was a tactical and limited response, it is an unmistakable demonstration that the wanton, barbaric, and mass extermination of innocents will not be tolerated,” he said. “Now, moving forward, we must stand united and resolute with freedom-loving countries around the globe to demand that the Assad regime answer for its crimes against humanity.”

At the Monday meeting, Capuano made note of Trump’s opposition to intervention in Syria in 2013, in which the then-private citizen tweeted that President Obama should “get congressional approval before attacking Syria.”

The fundamental issue, Capuano said, is that no bill can get to the floor of the House without the majority party -- Republicans – agreeing to take it up. The American people, by way of their elected representatives, are owed an open and public hearing when the commander-in-chief makes the case for military action, he said.

“If you want neat, you need a dictatorship,” Capuano added. “Democracy is messy.”