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."


red white and blue

Well start praying get ur heart right obama has sealed our fate may the lord have Mersey on us


It won't be Bush's war but somehow the war will be his fault.


Nope. We only blame Bush for things he actually did, like getting us into two unnecessary wars which were unpaid for, and based on false pretenses (non-existent weapons of mass destruction). We also blame him for things he screwed up for which we still haven't completely recovered: the economy and job losses for starters...

Darwin's choice

Keep twisting Coasterfan! The failure meter is really bending the needle already! But this, this should solidify Obama as the single biggest Presidential failure ever!! It will be epic!!!

Also, your bullspit line about the economy, another outright lie!!


Dagwood, you need to get in touch with reality. You obviously just like to type. You put the bull and spit in bullspit.


and our economy is doing stellar under Obama

Darwin's choice

So, Deertracker, what in my post isn't true? Typical answer from you, defer, deflect, deny. You are in the top 4 mac-daddy bs'ers here though.

The Big Dog's back

Better question would be what is true.

Darwin's choice

Ooooo! Burn.......


Re: "Nope."

Pres. Bush used CIA intelligence just as does the current POTUS.

Get out of your ridiculously simplistic mental comfort zone of "blame Bush" and 'try' to live in the present would ya?

Main question AND topic:

So you do support the actions of this ruling class sock puppet or not?

Gotta wonder:

Last reports I read had Assad gaining the upper hand with conventional weapons. WHY would he use WMD and risk condemnation and retribution?

The Big Dog's back

bush didn't use CIA intelligence.

The Phase II report on Bush administration public statements, in conjunction with the SSCI’s original July 2004 report on Iraq’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction, indicates that political manipulation extended beyond the intelligence itself to affect investigation of the intelligence failures on Iraq as well as the Bush administration’s use of that information.
In conjunction with other recently declassified materials, the Phase II report shows that the Bush administration solicited intelligence then used to “substantiate” its public claims.
A recently declassified draft of the CIA’s October 2002 white paper on Iraqi WMD programs demonstrates that that paper long pre-dated the compilation of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi capabilities.
The timing of the CIA’s draft white paper coincides with a previously available draft of the British Government’s white paper on Iraqi WMD, demonstrating that the Bush administration and the Tony Blair government began acting in concert to build support for an invasion of Iraq two to three months earlier than previously understood.
A comparison of the CIA draft white paper with its publicly released edition shows that all the changes made were in the nature of strengthening its charges against Iraq by inserting additional alarming claims, in the manner of an advocacy, or public relations document. The draft and final papers show no evidence of intelligence analysis applied to the information contained. Similar comparison of the British white paper shows the same phenomenon at work.
Declassified Pentagon documents demonstrate that the CIA white paper was modified in ways that conformed to the desires of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and his office, in much the same way that British documents indicate that country’s white paper was changed to conform to the desires of the Blair government.


Revisionist bullsh*t.

EVERY intelligence agency in the world believed that Iraq had WMD.

Saddam WANTED the world to believe that he had WMD.


Hey coaster, your boys Obama, Biden, H. Clinton, Pelosi, Reid all voted to support Bush on those wars. Their fault as much as Bush's

Darwin's choice

I don't hear the world screaming about the "red line". I do hear the world telling us to not attack Syria.

What is the big prize for bombing Syria? We get to punish Assad? Is that it?

What are the down sides:
1. Americans killed
2. Syrians killed
3. Costly war
4. Oil prices shoot up.
5. Russia and or China get nervous and a couple warships bump into each other and a trigger happy E-4 starts WWIII.

So what if Assad used chemicals and killed 300 people. Chicago beats that number easy, and we aren't invading them....Obama's hometown.....!
Democratic Party...home of the criminally stupid.


It does seem that the gas was used however by who? As reported by the Turkish Weekly the Syrian rebels were seized on the Turkish-Syrian border with a 2kg cylinder full of nerve gas sarin. I have not seen any news advising proof positive that it was the Syrian government that did use the gas.

The Syrian government troops did just battle Al-Qaida linked rebels over the Christian village Maaloula in western Syria . The government troops were attempting to fend off the rebel troops that were attacking the Christians. As a Christian I do not really want to use our military to aid the rebels that are slaughtering the Christians.

Some persons feel that we may see Bible prophecy fulfilled as Isaiah did say that Damascus will cease to be a city and become a ruin.

Maybe Obama might attempt to step up and become a leader. Create a coalition and approach Assad to change his ways as even now unless they can prove that the Syrian government used the gas in lieu of the rebels it seems that he is better than the rebels.

Darwin's choice

8 questions we should have firm answers on before attacking Syria

1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?

2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?

3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?

4. Have all other nonviolent policy means been fully exhausted?

5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?

6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?

7. Is the action supported by the American people?

8. Do we have genuine broad international support?


I may not have voted for him, but he sure turned around the stock market. Bush ruined the country. And I voted for him. And I like coasterfan dont like presidents that lie and cost all of those young lives.

Darwin's choice

So, you're OK with this?

What can we possibly gain?

That would be worth ONE AMERICAN life?

You don't like liars, huh?.....Benghazzi ring a bell, Lifetime?


Re: "And I like coasterfan dont like presidents that lie,"

But you support the current Liar-in-Chief?


You two just don't like the man. There is nothing he can do to get any type of approval from the likes of you. Your CONSTANT whining makes both of you totally IRREVELANT! All you do is call people names, recite faux news and try to assert your so called superiority. NEWSFLASH: You are not superior to anyone or anything.


Doesn't it just burn your a$$ when Obama says lies like he didn't make the red line, and that a video caused the attack in Benghazi? You must hate it when the lies are so easily shown on video tape.


Re: "You two"

Off topic and a ridiculous argument.

A 'simple' question addressed to the 'simple minded':

Do you support U.S. military intervention in Syria or not?

Darwin's choice

Defer, deflect, deny... There are many politicians I don't like, from both party's, and comment on them all. funny you take issue with someone pointing Obama's failure's out!


@lifetime...there have been plenty of lives lost under Obama and on his dime and call.

The man is a total lie. Hates nation spying and doesnt believe in it (2008)....now supports it and says that for national securities sake, some individual privacy will have to be violated (2013). Benghazi coverup. Im dont support gay marriage....oh wait, now I do.

I don't hate anyone but I call a spade a spade and Obama has been the worst president that I can ever remember.


Both parties crashed the economy. It was President Clinton that passed the Modernization Bank Act that allowed banks to be brokers and brokers be banks. For those that do not understand credit and over-leveraged lending that is what nuked the economy. It was signed into law by a democrat and occurred under a republican. Both parties accepted the legislation, so both parties are responsible.


Today Putin responded to Obama & the citizens of the USA.
Very informative interview that shows the deep distrust with Obama and the general press. Don't let the title and first paragraph confuse you, Putin covers a great amount of issues and even calls Kerry a liar in the supplied linked article. I'm sure the Register will pick this up when the general press such as the AP is forced to acknowledge this interview. http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Pea...

The Big Dog's back

right wingnut world is now in love with putin. How about winnie, you too? Everything I have said about right wingers has now been validated. Taliban, Russky's, al qaeda, right wing treasonous Amerikans, all the same. They all hate Obama.


No Darwin. I'm not OK with any of these wars. We should focus on our own country. Let the rest of them kill each other. Its never going to stop.


Re: "I'm not OK with any of these wars."

Then ya better dislike the Democrats who got the U.S. involved in modern wars that have caused the greatest number of American casualties:



So you would like to have been a Nazi, huh?
You could have taken Goebbel's job.