Conscience v. Constituents: Reps face difficult choice

President Barack Obama's team faces one of its toughest lobbying challenges in urging Congress to approve U.S. military action in Syria. Two veteran lawmakers say a decision to act against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is a difficult decision -- regardless if they’re a Democrat of Republican.

Former Congressman David Skaggs, D-Colo., and former Congressman James T Walsh, R-NY, shared how their experience in the House of Representatives applies to the current debate on Capitol Hill.

“Regardless of whatever other votes you make take going to war or at least giving the President the authorization to use force is something you don’t take lightly,” Rep. Walsh told LIVE’s KT McFarland. “Regardless of party, this is a very difficult decision and once you make it, sometimes [you] don’t sleep very well at night.”

Rep. Skaggs drew comparisons to the debate over whether to respond to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, which later led to the Persian Gulf War.

“These are unique debates and conscience wrestling occasions for members of Congress,” he explained. “They hear from constituents ... there are consequences that are much more grave than just about any other issue you deal with.”

Obama’s need to directly reach out to lawmakers is crucial for him to gain support from either party. “It’s votes like this where a member of Congress gets probably their first and maybe only direct telephone call from the president,” said Walsh. “It’s a very powerful vehicle when the president calls you up to talk to just you on the phone.”

The White House is lobbying Democrats to get behind the president on Syria. Skaggs believes that the stakes are “too high” for individual members to simply get behind their party on the issue.

Concerns remain over whether the federal government can trust the evidence against the Syrian president. “The use of force resolution in Desert Storm … we made that decision based on some bad information and while that wasn’t the important aspect of the decision, it was the key fact in the decision making,” said Walsh. “If I were a member of Congress, I would want to be absolutely certain that the information the President and the administration have is accurate.”

The former lawmakers believe Congress needs to look beyond Syria and see what impact that strike would have on U.S. interests around the world.

“What hasn’t been publicized and shouldn’t be is what are we hearing offline from people with good sources in Tehran, in the Far East, around North Korea,” said Skaggs. “In fact, do we risk what appears to be the possibility of a more constructive relationship with the President of Iran … do we risk that if we take action here [Syria]?”

Watch the full interview with Congressmen David Skaggs and James T Walsh above and for more on this topic watch LIVE weekdays at 12 p.m. ET