Pryor a 'no' on Syria
Sen. Mark Pryor, seen here in a political ad, is a "no" on striking Syria.
September 7th, 2013
01:53 PM ET
1 year ago

Pryor a 'no' on Syria

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As the Obama administration sells its plan for limited military strikes against Syria, an Arkansas Democrat says he "cannot support military action at this time."

Sen. Mark Pryor issued a statement Saturday saying President Obama and his national security team have not yet made an effective case for taking action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.


Pryor further criticized the administration for failing to lay out its big picture reasons for responding to Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons - namely, a "compelling national security interest" that demands the United States engage militarily.

"Based on the information presented to me and the evidence I have gathered, I do not believe these criteria have been met," Pryor said.

A more conservative Democrat, Pryor faces a tough re-election battle for the Senate against popular Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. Cotton said earlier this week he would support the authorization.

Pryor also stressed the need to "build a true coalition of allies" that would join the United States in punishing the Assad regime for violating international law.

The emphasis on international support for the Syria strikes comes follows a morning statement from European Union foreign ministers unequivocally condemning the August 21 chemical attacks as "a blatant violation of international law, a war crime and a crime against humanity."

Still, Pryor's decision to weigh in against the administration's plans could signal that momentum on the issue continues to move away from the White House. Pryor’s willingness to leave the door open to changing his vote also helps explain the urgent lobbying effort by the administration to "whip" Congress on Syria.

En route back from the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, late Friday, Obama made several calls to congressional members on both sides of the aisle, according to a senior administration official.

While the official did not give the names or number of members Obama called, the mid-flight phone banking underscores the White House's continuous efforts to persuade members.

In addition to Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough continued to make calls to members, even after some attended a classified briefing Friday at the White House and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power pitched the planned aerial assault in a speech to the Center for American Progress earlier in the day.

McDonough is scheduled to make appearances on all five major Sunday morning news shows only a week after Secretary of State John Kerry did the same.

The White House is tapping all its resources to sell its plan in the coming week, beginning with National Security Adviser Susan Rice's address to the New America Foundation on Monday.

The administration then plans to have the major players – Rice, Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper - hold a closed intelligence briefing for the entire Congress on Monday at 5 p.m. ET.

The president himself is slated to address the nation Tuesday as Congress prepares to decide the fate of a resolution authorizing punitive strikes against Syria.

From a broad perspective, the Obama administration's momentum in persuading the nation to rally behind the president's plan seems to be slowing considerably.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Friday he believes the resolution will get 60 votes in the Senate but added that rallying enough members to the president's side is "a work in progress."

The first of several key votes in the upper chamber - a procedural vote requiring at least 60 yeas for the Senate to formally take up the measure - is expected Wednesday.

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. just saying

    obama can't even convince his own party to jump into the syrian quagmire. this guy knows he's getting the boot in the next election so he is already fighting for his political life. democrats in red states must go and go fast. democrats and leftists hate red states as they have shown repeatedly in here. rememebr people of arkansas, democrats and their far left leaders think you are all a bunch of welfare cases. sending them packing for their insults.

    September 7, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  2. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    It's comforting to know that we have incompetent politicians dem and teaparty GOP who will stick up for the rights of assed to gas his own children, and then we have demenstrators outside the White House who are doing the same thing?????? They should be in asseds office or at the United Nations protesting assed the murderer, all cowards and losers,why don't you congratulate assed for his success on the children's deaths, morons !!!!!!

    September 7, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  3. t

    ."just saying"....appears to be a FoxTard............firstclass

    September 7, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    @just sayin:

    The chances of a "syrian quagmire" shot up 100 percent when your poker playin', "I don't need a lecture on
    veterans", thinks he's President, John McCain added his amendment to the Senate Bill.
    The reason some of us don't want to be involved in Syria comes from the Iraq fiasco perpetrated on our
    military and the American people based on lies.
    We don't trust McCain, or any other Republican hawk and chickenhawk.
    I still support the President in many other ways, and am not afraid to disagree with him. Unlike those
    of you who jump 10 feet in the air if a Tea Partier says "boo".
    As for "democrats....think you are all a bunch of welfare cases", what a crock.
    Would that be Romney's 47 percent you are talking about?

    September 7, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  5. donna

    I'm not surprised that our Washington lawmakers are having second thoughts about intervention, especially since Obama refuses to provide any support that it was Syria, not Al Nusra who was responsible for the attacks. Instead, he authenticates some YouTube videos that we've already seen verifying that attacks have taken place – something we've already accepted. No wonder the congressional and senate members have begun stepping back.

    September 7, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  6. Liz the First

    This is why we Dems don't get more accomplished. we don't march in mindless lockstep like the repugs, or at least the mainstream ones, not the loose cannon, nutburger teaturds. I may be one of very few liberals who approve of bombing Syria. i know the repugs want to vote No just to make Obama look bad, but we in his own party need to back him in this horrible situation. Assad needs to receive a very harsh slap-down over this atrocity. if our congress approves, i'm sure other nations will get on board. otherwise, what's the point of the world saying some particularly horrendous weapons are off limits???

    September 7, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  7. Evergreen

    War fatique and middle east fatique are not partisan issues. I am a democrate and will support the President on any and all issues, except for further involvement in the middle east. Tread carefully Mr. President and God be with you.

    September 7, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  8. Don Guthrie

    Wow, a Senator who is actually voting with the desires of 91% of the American public, I can't believe it. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have straddled the US with 2 trillion in debt,$ 40,000 per family. We have to stop being the policemen of the world. The world has alot of evil, alot of people killed daily.... These Syrians were the same people dancing in the streets when our Trade Centers fell down....

    September 7, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  9. John in Brooklyn

    The Neville Chamberlain of Arkansas.

    September 7, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  10. S. B. Stein

    Given that there is some much the general public hasn't been told, no one can be fully ready to make a decision. I say that we need to do something. We the people of the planet have made general agreement never to use these weapons of mass destruction. There should be some way to make it clear that their use unacceptable and have a terrible consequence.

    September 8, 2013 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  11. Thomas

    If we change the name from Syria to Iran , the nut jobs like Randy Paul and the other spineless politicians would be all in .

    Just Sayin !

    September 8, 2013 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  12. Ali haider

    Our Congress must pass the resolution. Yes, it is a democracy but we elected the president and our reps because we trusted them in running the country and keeping us safe. They have to listen to us but they shouldn't get back to us every time when the stakes are very high. Why? because we can have very diverse stands on different issues. Some of us are driven by emotions, some have their own prejudice, many are simply ignorant, some are oppositional and some are paranoid regardless how the government is transparent and yes some are not only stupid but also proud to be so! The essence of democracy is to chose people, professional politicians to do their best in running the country and then to hold them accountable for wrong doing but stepping in every time they plan to do something will make their job very complicated and will slow down the process or even paralyzed the system. This also will divide us as a nation and we will look to outsiders like groups of immature kids who are agreeing on nothing and disagreeing on everything.The president committed a huge mistake by conceding his executive power as a president and Commander-In-Chief to the general public. True leadership means taking tough and sometimes unpopular decisions for the good of the nation. I always tell my kids that I am here not to please you but to do what is in your best interest. Just imagine if we ask our kids if they would agree on getting their shots! The opposition will be overwhelming but later they will thank us for not listening to them.

    September 8, 2013 04:05 am at 4:05 am |
  13. Name Uche Agonsi

    Can we all just pause a little to look at the costs and benefits effects of this Syrian strikes.
    For the US, its more budgetary squeeze and increased debt for strategic political gains and preservation of presidential ego. The Repubs would make more money in arms deals. Depending on the area of focus, US allies in the Middle East would gain nothing but increased hostilities, more budgetary provisions from increased security that might involve more monetary commitment by US. There would be civil casualties, relationship breakdowns with Russia and China that might affect other areas of communal interests like negotiations with Iran, NK, even interactions at the UN. The problem spots will continue to be there. Al Assad will continue his war, Egypt would tend to be alienated, maybe to China, President Obama's popularity will shrink in Europe.......no further gains in diplomacy like during Hillary's period.......and guess the architect of all these..... Kerry and McCain.
    The way out. Let the Congress give President Obama a face-saving exit by rejecting the call for the strikes. Allow a discussion with the Russians, in which case, you request for a reparation benefit for the dead victims and costs of war preparation. Then deal on Al Assad exit, etc. That case everyone walks away with smiles and no image will be dented. Goodluck.

    September 8, 2013 05:48 am at 5:48 am |
  14. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Who cares? This guy stands with the unhinged GOBP tea potty Assad party.

    September 8, 2013 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  15. Gurgyl

    Does this idiot know Al Queda is creating its own town? I think we need to air strike. No boots on the ground. Congress better approve. Brainy decision.

    September 8, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  16. Mary Holmes

    "Explore other choices" I keep hearing. 'There "must" be some other way". .How about political diploma first ? Who knows how long this civil war will go on regardless if we strike. Rather than Syrians staying in Syria and dying or getting maimed, they will likely be safer living across the borders even if for a few years. How about UN announce a 2 week peace treaty while they arrange for Syrians, especially all women and children, and any men who want to go, to get across the border: by bus, trucks, planes, walk, donkey, horses–whatever way possible–no matter if UN evacuates many more millions, at least "talk and act diplomatically first", Get the innocent people out of there before taking anything out with warfare. It would be a lot cheaper, safer and kinder to help fund the exiting and food and maintenance across the borders. Those who choose to stay are warned by the UN, they do so at their own peril –they had a choice at least.. If they stay, they know the risks, but had the choice to go. USA and the rest of the world will find it cheaper to care for the across-border cities as an "alternative". Even with a "limited strike" with all those innocent people still there, and putting our own soldiers at risk, rather than US take out enemies and WMD, Obama should diplomatically arrange instead to first remove the Syrian people, before he removes the WMD. I havent heard Obama or McCain ask the world to help them build more over-the-border cities and provide food and basic needs to keep millions more somewhat safer, (before) they take care of other military measures. Alternatively (at the very least) get UN's help getting the Syrians safe first. Then talk about other alternative measures to remove WMD -secondly, have the UN announce/demand Assad must hand over all WMD without military strikes, or else. Else the UN helps US and other countries strike the storage target areas of WMD, Al Qaeda, bad guys, and go get Assad–there should be no people there who dont want to be there by then. Isn't this a better first, second and third. alternative until the region is stabilized with a new democratic -non tyrannical dictatorship government? Then the Syrians an go back home, even if it takes a few short years it will be worth it in the long run for all sides, and the whole world..

    September 8, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |