Representative Joseph Kennedy III witholds support for Syria force amid skepticism from state’s delegation

WASHINGTON—If President Obama has any hope of gaining congressional approval to strike Syria, he may need to win without much, if any, help from Massachusetts’ normally reliable all-Democratic delegation.

Even Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, the Brookline Democrat, was noncommital Friday. Kennedy had spoken most forcefully in the past about the imperative to involve the United States in Syria. But in a nuanced statement to the Globe, he cited “serious concerns with the current Senate resolution because I believe its parameters are too broad and its long-term strategy too murky.”

“The international community has a responsibility to uphold international norms and to do all it can to deter and eliminate the use of these gruesome weapons," Kennedy wrote. “But whether or not the United States can effectively do that via a targeted missile strike is open to legitimate debate.”

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Kennedy praised Obama for efforts to build international support but said his vote would depend on further research, discussions with his constituents, and the final wording of the legislation to authorize force.

The dean of the state’s House members, Representative Richard E. Neal, said Friday that he believes a sizeable majority of his colleagues will vote no.

“I think that the White House has a hard slog with the delegation,” said Neal, a Springfield Democrat who is hesitant to authorize force.

Neal said he had only spoken directly with a few of his colleagues. But the 24-year veteran of the House said he senses strong reluctance from his own constituents and notes the history of opposition within the delegation for military force. Staff members of several Massachusetts congressmen said calls to their offices have been overwhelmingly opposed.

Neal said he will probably not make up his own mind until just before the House votes, which may not happen until the week of Sept. 16.

“Count me as skeptical,” Neal said. “I think that we run the risk, without a carefully planned game here, to widen the war. I think the real threat from that part of the world still comes from Iran.”

Several of Neal’s colleagues are also on record as either reluctant or likely to vote “no,” including representatives Stephen F. Lynch of South Boston, Michael E. Capuano of Somerville, Niki Tsongas of Lowell, and James P. McGovern of Worcester.

Senator Edward J. Markey has been lambasted for declining to take a position when his own panel, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, approved a resolution to use force on Wednesday by a 10-7 vote. Markey’s “present” vote earned him “Worst Week in Washington” on Friday afternoon from the Washington Post’s political blog, The Fix.

“Ed Markey, for keeping the bat on your shoulder during your first at-bat in the big leagues, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something,” wrote Chris Cillizza, editor of blog.

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