Obama wins Senate panel's backing on Syria strike

Legislation backing the use of force against President Bashar Assad's government cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-7 vote. The measure is expected to reach the Senate floor next week, although the timing for a vote is uncertain.
Associated Press
Sep 4, 2013

President Barack Obama's request for speedy congressional backing of a military strike in Syria advanced Wednesday toward a showdown Senate vote, while the commander in chief left open the possibility he would order retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack even if Congress withheld its approval.

Legislation backing the use of force against President Bashar Assad's government cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-7 vote after it was stiffened at the last minute to include a pledge of support for "decisive changes to the present military balance of power" in Syria's civil war. It also would rule out U.S. combat operations on the ground.

The measure is expected to reach the Senate floor next week, although the timing for a vote is uncertain. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky conservative with strong tea party ties, has threatened a filibuster.

The House also is reviewing Obama's request, but its timetable is even less certain and the measure could face a rockier time there.

The administration blames Assad for a chemical weapons attack that took place on Aug. 21 and says more than 1,400 civilians died, including at least 400 children. Other casualty estimates are lower, and the Syrian government denies responsibility, contending rebels fighting to topple the government were to blame.

The Senate panel's vote marked the first formal response in Congress, four days after Obama unexpectedly put off an anticipated cruise missile strike against Syria last weekend and instead asked lawmakers to unite first behind such a plan.

In Stockholm, Sweden, where Obama was traveling on Wednesday, the White House praised the vote, and said it would continue to seek support for "a military response that is narrowly tailored to enforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and sufficient to protect the national security interests of the United States of America."

Earlier, at a news conference Obama said, "I always preserve the right and responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security." In a challenge to lawmakers back home, he said Congress' credibility was on the line, not his own, despite saying a year ago that the use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line."

Secretary of State John Kerry said he believes Obama will address the nation on Syria in the next few days. The president returns home from overseas Friday night.

Obama's request also received its first hearing in the House during the day, and Kerry responded heatedly when Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said that the secretary of state, Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden all had advocated for caution in past conflicts. "Is the power of the executive branch so intoxicating that you have abandoned past caution in favor of pulling the trigger on a military response so quickly?" Duncan asked.

Kerry, who fought in Vietnam in the 1960s and voted to authorize the war against Iraq a decade ago, shot back angrily: "I volunteered to fight for my country, and that wasn't a cautious thing to do when I did it." When Duncan interrupted, the secretary of state said," I'm going to finish, congressman," and cited his support as senator for past U.S. military action in Panama and elsewhere.

The Senate committee's vote capped a hectic few days in which lawmakers first narrowed the scope of Obama's request — limiting it to 90 days and banning combat operations on the ground — and then widened it.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a proponent of aggressive U.S. military action in Syria, joined forces with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware to add a provision calling for "decisive changes to the present military balance of power on the ground in Syria."

At their urging, the measure was also changed to state that the policy of the United States is "to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria so as to create favorable conditions for a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and leads to a democratic government in Syria." McCain, who has long accused Obama of timidity in Syria, argued that Assad will be willing to participate in diplomatic negotiations only if he believes he is going to lose the civil war he has been fighting for over two years.

The changes were enough to attract bipartisan support, but political fault lines were clear on a military action that polls show a war-weary public opposes.

Seven Democrats and three Republicans supported the measure, while two Democrats and five Republicans opposed. Among Republicans, opposition came from lawmakers with the closest ties to tea party activists, including Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, both presidential aspirants.

Among Democrats, Kerry's replacement in the Senate, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., voted "present" after expressing misgivings.

In his comments in Sweden, the president sought to shift the onus for responding to Assad to Congress and the world at large. "I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line" with a treaty banning the use of chemical weapons. He added that "Congress set a red line" when it passed legislation a decade ago demanding Syria stop production of weapons of mass destruction.

His comments drew a disbelieving response from one Republican back home.

"He needs to go back and read his quote," Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said, referring to a comment the president made slightly more than a year ago. On Aug. 20, 2012, Obama said, "We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. ... "That would change my calculus" about military action, he added at the time.

Elsewhere on Wednesday:

— In Syria, al-Qaida-linked rebels were said to have launched an assault on a government-held Christian mountain village in the densely populated western part of the country, and there was new fighting near Damascus as well.

— In Rome, Pope Francis underscored Vatican opposition to threatened military strikes against Syria, urging Catholics and non-Catholics alike to take part in a day of fasting and prayer for peace on Saturday.

— In France, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told parliament that failure to take action would allow Assad to launch more chemical attacks.

By his country's intelligence, the Syrian has an abundance of material. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., citing a French estimate, said at the Senate meeting that Assad has an estimated 1,000 tons of chemical weapons material and "may be in the chemical weapons world a superpower."

Kerry said Assad had used chemical weapons 11 times but until the most recent attack the president did not have a "compelling" enough case to push for a U.S. military response.

Few if any members of Congress dispute the administration's claim that Assad was responsible for the attack, and lawmakers in both parties appear far more focused on determining how they should respond.

Gaveling the House committee hearing to order, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said that while it would be important to deter the use of chemical weapons by Assad and others, there remained many unanswered questions, including what the U.S. would do if Assad retaliated.

"The administration's Syria policy doesn't build confidence," he said.

In a letter to her rank and file, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said she had received suggestions for legislation in the House "to add language to prevent boots on the ground, to tie the authorization more closely to the use of chemical weapons and to address concerns about an open-ended timetable."

Comments

Contango

Huh. Except for childish ad hominem attacks, it would appear that the lefty wingnut Obamabot "blog idiots" can't formulate one single intelligent or rational thought in support of the Ruling Class Sock Puppet's argument for getting the U.S. involved in another shootin' war.

I liked the foreign press conference yesterday. They weren't fawning and drooling all over the Nobel Peace Prize winner. :)

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/v...

deertracker

Get some sleep pooh!

Cowboy

Ha ha ha, lets give em a week or two to hide the stuff and beef up their SAMs! Real smart!

grumpy

Hide their equipment, move it into civilian areas, or move civilians around the equipment. After all how can it be a war without collateral damage? How can there be collateral damage till their are civilians around the equipment that will be targeted? Ask any military and they will tell you it is always best to give the enemy a couple weeks notice before attacking. The element of surprise is greatly over rated. It is mo betta to tell them what you are targeting and how long you will be targeting them and that you will not be bringing in troops.

That sounds like the Obama doctrine.

Contango

While preparing for the Battle of Chancellorsville, the story is told how a young Confederate lieutenant spotted Gen'l Jackson and asked:

Where we goin' General?

Gen'l Jackson replied: Can you keep a secret?

The Lt. responded: Yes Sir!

To which Gen'l Jackson replied: Well so can I.

Contango

"Hitler Reacts To The US Threatening Syria":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T...

arnmcrmn

This war that Obama and the liberals NOW want will do nothing to change Syria or the M.E. Its going to cost billions a month to drop some bombs from planes and fire some rockets from ships but will have zero effect on Syria EXCEPT fire up that entire area. If we want to change the M.E. then we will have to basically take over every country and put our leaders in control. Outside of that, they will always be prehistoric religion fighting airheads that will always revert to their old ways.

Meanwhile, we have millions of homeless people and kids that go to bed hungry every single night. Take care of US, not them.

Contango

Re: "EXCEPT fire up that entire area."

China and Russia could threaten to dump their billions in U.S. Treasuries like they were rumored to have threatened during the 2008 financial crisis.

The 10 yr. U.S. Treasury is pushing 3% this morning.

Rising interest rates would more than likely hurt any U.S. economic growth.

"China Officially Backs Russia On Syria, Warns 'Military Action Would Have Negative Impact On Global Economy'":

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/20...

The Big Dog's back

So now you're a Progressive?

Contango

What the (bleep) are these "closed door" Senate hearings over the question of getting the U.S. militarily involved in Syria?

These ass clowns are potentially endangering the entire country and a govt. OF, FOR and BY THE PEOPLE should be informed about what the (bleep) we're getting involved in.

This sh*t should be televised LIVE.

H*ll, the President has already telegraphed his intentions, what shouldn't we know?

"Senate Breaks Own Rules in Rush to Vote on Syria War":

http://www.thedailybeast.com/art...

red white and blue

Please people share glenn becks plea he has a video of a rebel the same people are gov.is wanting to back cut a enemy chest open and eat his organs live.this isn't about republican or democrate this is about or future our kids if we don't speak up and do something we are going to be in another war and I promise you it won't end well for us please look up the video and see for your self.

The New World Czar

Can anyone define what "foreign policy" means to this administration?

Sniping at Libya and Egypt with disasterous results?
Not just those murdered in Benghazi but all the Coptic Christians being slaughtered by the Muslim Brotherhood and their cronies.

By the time the Campaigner-In-Chief gets approval, whatever WMD's and chemical weapons will be well out of sight (did someone out there whisper "Iran"?).

This gets more embarrassing by the day.

4shizzle

Bush had a great "foreign policy" too, don't forget.

Fromthe419

As I stated earlier, same failed policies no matter what party is in the Whitehouse, when are all of us going to wake up? D or R, the foreign policy is made by the military industrial complex that benefits and profits from war. The war drums are beating and it doesn't matter if 100 percent of the American public is against it, the military complex wants it and we don't matter.

Contango

Re: "the military industrial complex that benefits and profits from war."

Agreed. It's been goin' on for over 70 yrs. It's been referred to as: The Endless War.

The UK gave up being the world's policemen in the late 1940s because they were broke and passed the job over to the U.S.

"We've always been at war with Eastasia," - "Nineteen Eighty-Four"

kURTje

So many talkers. Few doers.

grumpy

"So many talkers. Few doers."

Who outside of a president can direct foreign policy or send US military to attack Syria? I highly doubt obama reads this paper... much less responds to the articles. He would be the ONLY "doer" around.

arnmcrmn

kurt is a talker...he is talking about himself.

arnmcrmn

There definitely is fault to go around everywhere. There has never been a perfect president. The problem is you mud slingers still throw mud at Bush almost 6 years later, yet cannot simply admit Obamas many faults and broken promises. Its called being a hypocrite....look it up.

Darwin's choice

last 100 years of Wars

Republican wars (Gulf War, War on Terror)
4,976 (as of August, 2010)

Democrat wars (WW I, WW II, Korea, Vietnam)
636,438

Democrats killed 636,438 Americans
Republicans killed 4,976 Americans
__________________

kURTje

Dr. e, Corbin & I really don't think much of your type. Go play ball.

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