WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey on Monday said that as the evidence comes in — the facts that have been made public and the classified data — a “clear and convincing case” is being made that the U.S. “can’t just walk away” without taking action against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
“You have to consider the gravity of the crime against humanity,” Casey said in a telephone interview from his Washington, D.C. office. “More than 1,400 people, including children, have been killed with the use of chemical weapons. This is an ongoing threat to our security as well.”
A member of the National Security Working Group and co-chair of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Caucus, he said a “good deal of debate” remains in Congress, but he said the more data that comes in makes the case of action stronger.
Casey, D-Scranton, visited a Syrian refugee camp in the spring and said he saw hundreds of children hoping for a bright future.
“Last month, Assad unconscionably killed hundreds of children with chemical weapons,” Casey said. “When a dictator or a terrorist organization uses chemical weapons in violation of international law, there must be a direct response. We cannot simply condemn this crime — it is in the U.S. interest to act.”
He said Iran, the terrorist organization Hezbollah and North Korea are watching the U.S. response closely. “It is imperative that we send a message,” he said. “I believe it is important that all aspects of our Syria policy be thoroughly debated with national security interests in mind.”
Casey said President Barack Obama will address the nation tonight and make his case for taking action. Obama is asking Congress to support his plan for limited military strikes against the Syrian regime.
Casey on other issues
Minimum wage: Casey, chairman of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage by passing the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. Casey said increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation will offer a lift up the ladder to the middle class and boost the economy by stimulating new spending
“Six years have passed since the last minimum wage increase was enacted,” he said. “Pay for the middle class is stagnant while the gap between the haves and have-nots widens.”
Casey said raising the minimum wage would be “a reasonable way” to help jump-start the economy, but more important, it would enable families to keep up with the rising inflation where fixed expenses continue to rise yearly.
He said he hopes Congress will vote on the issue later this year.
Debt spending: Casey said Democrats and Republicans “have to get together” and soon — by the end of the federal fiscal year Sept. 30 — to come up with a plan. He said a budget needs to be passed and the country needs to begin paying down its debt. He also said Congress must “turn off the sequester” before it results in devastating cuts.
“Some people in Washington think default is the right approach, but it’s not,” Casey said. “We also need to take a hard look at tax reform.”