September 10th, 2013
01:49 PM ET
12 months ago

Senate group making changes to authorization resolution

Washington (CNN) – A bipartisan group of eight senators is working on an alternative resolution on Syria that would set key benchmarks that must be met to avoid a military strike in the war-torn country.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week passed a resolution granting authorization to the president for U.S. military action in Syria, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday decided to delay holding a full Senate vote due to unfolding developments for a potential diplomatic solution.

In the meantime, President Barack Obama and administration officials are still urging Congress to get behind a plan for U.S. force in case the international community fails to come up with a peaceful solution, a Russian proposal that would involve Syria handing over control of its chemical weapons to international control.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, announced Tuesday morning on CNN's New Day that the group of senators is working on an alternative resolution, this one tailored to the recent Russian proposal. The draft resolution would require the United Nations to pass its own resolution saying Syria used chemical weapons, and by a certain (though yet to be determined) date remove the weapons from Syria, according to a source familiar with the talks.

If those two mandates are not met, U.S. force would be authorized, according to a broad outline of the Senate resolution. The group hasn't decided if they will include any restrictions-such as language that prohibits boots on the ground-in the legislation.

It's unclear when the resolution might be introduced, as there's currently no timeline for a rollout, the source said. The Senate floor is expected to be somewhat in limbo on Syria as the negotiations play out. Staff will meet Tuesday to discuss the language and senators continue to talk, but there are no meetings planned for Tuesday among the senators themselves.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is part of the bipartisan group writing the fresh Senate resolution, said he doesn't want the Senate to act until the U.N. takes formal steps to take control of Syria's chemical weapons.

"I won't be for this until I see that the U.N. process starts," he told CNN. "It would be a huge mistake for the Senate to embrace the process that's fluid. We can't put our hopes and dreams in the hands of Russia."

The United Nations Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting on Syria Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

In addition to McCain and Graham, the group of eight senators includes fellow Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York, Carl Levin of Michigan (the Armed Services Committee chairman), Chris Coons of Delaware, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. White House officials and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, are also involved in the talks but have not necessarily come out in support of it, the source said.

President Barack Obama will likely talk about the new Russian proposal-a pitch he labeled a "potentially positive development" in an interview with CNN on Monday-when he visits Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon to meet separately with Senate Democrats and Republicans. The visit is part of the president's aggressive offensive to generate support as the White House makes its next moves in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons last month. The president also addresses the American public Tuesday night in prime time on national TV.

Since Friday, August 23, the administration has had discussions with at least 93 Senators and more than 350 House Members, according to a White House official.

In another development Tuesday, the top Republican in the Senate said he'll oppose the current resolution passed by the Senate committee last week to authorize U.S. military action against Syria.

"Our vital national security risk is clearly not at play," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor. His position makes him the only one of the top four party leaders in Congress to oppose the resolution.

On the House side, Vice President Joe Biden is meeting with a group of House Republicans and House Democrats at the White House on Tuesday, the official said.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi argued the Russian plan has "given the president a victory."

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, she wouldn't comment directly on the new Senate effort to change to the resolution, but said even before the Russians acted, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and others were working on language to provide an opportunity to see if "this is possible."
If a diplomatic solution falls through, Pelosi said the U.S. should move forward with "limited, targeted, tailored" strikes.

She added White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told House Democrats the Russian proposal "will be given every consideration" if it is "serious, if it is credible, if it is real." Democratic Leaders argued the proposal doesn't take the wind out of the administration's efforts but "validates what the president is doing."

– CNN's Ashley Killough, Dana Bash, Kevin Bohn, and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: Congress • Syria
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    "Our vital national security risk is clearly not at play," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor.
    ---------------–
    Our word and reputation to make good on it is at risk and McConnell knows it. I've said it from the day the U.N. inspectors went into Syria. There should be no votes in the Congress until at least the U.N. finishes up its' business. With a General Assembly session coming up, it may be possible to get a vote from the entire body against Syria.

    September 10, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. sonny chapman

    Next years nominee for the JFK Profiles In Courage.

    September 10, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    Aaaaand, the GOPers/Teatrolls are busy trying to find a way to mess this up and then blame it falling apart on Obama.

    September 10, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "Our vital national security risk is clearly not at play," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor."

    Teatroll Rosetta Stone says: "My vital self-interest in establishing my anti-Obama bona fides for the Teatrolly primary I face is clearly at play."

    September 10, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  5. Data Driven

    @Lindsey Graham,

    "We can't put our hopes and dreams in the hands of Russia"

    And let the Talking Points begin!

    September 10, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    @Sniffit: "Aaaaand, the GOPers/Teatrolls are busy trying to find a way to mess this up and then blame it falling apart on Obama."

    GOPers/Teatrolls, the rocking chairs of society: Feeling like their doing something, getting nowhere.

    September 10, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  7. Mike Schoppe

    Reagan took the war power illegally. Obama asks for powers to act and Congress drags it's feet. All war crimes must be dealt with swiftly and decisively. We must be prepared to act if anything goes wrong while trying to find a peaceful solution. If Assad believes that we would drop a smart bomb on his house if he doesn't surrender, then we won't have to. If he thinks we won't, the civil war in Syria will go on. Terrorists win again.

    We are not going to war, we are working for peace. Even so, we must not drop our guard. Support the President for his need for force. Believe in World Peace.

    September 10, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  8. rs

    "We can't put our hopes and dreams in the hands of Russia"
    __________________________
    And what makes that so funny is the TEA Party anti-patriots keep cheering what they perceive to be Putin's "victories" over Obama.

    September 10, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  9. just saying

    Rudy NYC
    ------
    "Our vital national security risk is clearly not at play," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor.
    -----–
    Our word and reputation to make good on it is at risk and McConnell knows it
    -----–

    just because obama spoke rashly and stupidly does not mean we have to go to war, risk american lives, kill people and waste billions of dollars, all for nothing concrete to be accomplished. the money would be better spent getting obama some training in how not to shoot his mouth off and act more presidential.

    September 10, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  10. just asking

    Sniffit
    Aaaaand, the GOPers/Teatrolls are busy trying to find a way to mess this up and then blame it falling apart on Obama.
    -–

    hahaha.... hardly... bumbles obama is doing all this quite nicely on his own. he's got the whole world laughing at him at this point.

    September 10, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  11. The Real Tom Paine

    -Hector Slagg

    A few things to consider. UPS just dropped the Spouse Coverage from it's employee's benefits. IBM just transferred 110,000 retired health benefits to the exchanges. Time Warner did the same. You think that's the end of it? Obama Care is killing jobs. You don't think so? Good luck.
    ***********************
    Sorry, Ray E. ( Georgia), how is this killing jobs when its spouse coverage being dropped, and retired employees? How is that killing jobs, when those people are not on the payroll of the companies you mentioned? Another example of how you run inside the rightie intellectual hamster wheel, thinking you're going somewhere by dropping the names of a few companies in another vain attempt to whip up hate against the ACA.

    September 10, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  12. lisa s n.j.

    I hope that this can be resolved peacefully.But I am against arming the rebels. Anyone who thinks arming the rebels needs to read Richard Engel's The dark knights of the Syrian opposition. N.Y. Times Assault on Christian town in Syria adds to fears over rebels, BBC news Syria hostages treated like animals, NYT Rebel attack on Christian town fuels fear.

    September 10, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "hahaha.... hardly... bumbles obama is doing all this quite nicely on his own. he's got the whole world laughing at him at this point."
    ===

    This episode of "Life Inside the Teatroll Bubble" was brought to you by the guttural exclamation "Derp!"

    September 10, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  14. Obama 332 . . . Romney 206 (Please repeat this in your postings heck sign off with it)

    The GOP hate for all things Obama has them now rejecting their own Warmongering DNA tendencies simply because he advocated for military action. They are really tying themselves in knots to oppose the President. I hope that the true journalists have the professionalism to hold all the expected "NO" voters accountable, both now and in the future.

    Marco Rubio is a prime example; there months ago, he called for US military assets to be used against Assad BUT NOW he's against it. He has no principles; just puts his finger in the wind to see which way it's blowing. The same is true for so many others in the GOP.

    A strong united America would authorize force against Assad NOW. This would make it far more likely that he would cower in the face of our might and settle for giving up those chemical weapons rather than face a barrage of tomahawks and other ordinances against his radar, lauchers, aircraft, runways, etc. It would also give Russian the opportunity to bolster it's image by forcing it's puppet to accept this alternative to American attack. The UN should be made to vote on the Syrian Chemical attack . . . put Russian on the record to endorse or condemn that event. Then we move forward accordingly.

    Obama 332 / Romney 206

    September 10, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  15. Never voting Democrat again

    Obama has made me regret ever voting for him. This Syria fiasco is the last straw. The Democratic Party has lost its collective mind on just about every topic. 2014 is going to be a rude awakening for them.

    September 10, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |