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Syria Debate In Congress: 4 Exchanges You Should Listen To

Today, it was the U.S. House of Representative's turn to question the Obama administration about its plan for a military strike on Syria.

As we told you, Tuesday, their Senate counterparts expressed little skepticism while questioning Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Things were a little different in front of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where the administration faced some aggressive questioning and where members aired some serious disagreement.

We watched the more than three-hour hearing and pulled four exchanges that tell the story:

-- The Obama administration has a credibility problem, so they should be moving toward a military operation with extreme caution, said Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina. Duncan brought up Benghazi and the IRS scandal in what was perhaps the most contentious — and personal — exchange Kerry had with any of the lawmakers:

-- Gen. Dempsey, who remained fairly quiet throughout both hearings, had a good exchange with Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas. If you remember, back in July in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin, Dempsey issued a pretty grim assessment of the military prospects for Syria. Duncan pressed Dempsey on those views and Dempsey said that he was still cautious "about taking the opposition side" in the civil war:

-- Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat from New York, delivered a concise and passionate case for not going to war:

-- To end the hearing, Kerry said that while he and Dempsey may disagree, the administration does not think this operation would be considered a war:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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