Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 25, 2015

10 Senators to Watch This Week on Syria

McConnell and Cornyn

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama continues to rally support for his plan to punish Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people, and several senators may be crucial to getting the 60 votes needed to move forward on a use of force resolution.

Not every member on this list will be a “yes” — indeed, some most definitely will vote “no” — but each senator can influence the debate as the United States considers potential military engagement in another Middle Eastern country.

On Monday, the Syrian government indicated it may be willing to give up its chemical weapons to avoid a strike, but that doesn’t get these senators off the hook for a vote as early as this week. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the only reason the Syrians were even floating the idea is because of the threat of a strike.

“We need to keep the pressure on,” Carney said. “The only reason why we are seeing this proposal is because of the U.S. threat of military action.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid opened the Senate Monday by noting the importance of the debate to come. “This matter demands the attention of the Senate and this country,” the Nevada Democrat said. “Regardless of where senators stand on the merits of this issue, all should agree that we should have this debate.”

Reid noted that the week will be filled with personal appeals and classified briefings from senior administration officials, including Obama himself. The president is due to address the Senate Democrats’ weekly lunch on Tuesday and has extended an offer to speak to GOP senators as well, Reid said.

Before Monday’s development, some senators had already been privately wined-and-dined by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Obama, while others have visited the White House or been on the receiving end of a call from the president.

But there are some senators who are worth watching more closely than others as the debate unfolds this week.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: McConnell has been relatively quiet on Syria and is in a tough spot politically. He is a congressional leader who typically would support such action. But he also faces a tough re-election bid and a conservative challenger in a state where libertarian, non-interventionist Sen. Rand Paul has become more of a driver of the political narrative than he is.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas: As the No. 2 Senate Republican, Cornyn is in much the same straits as McConnell. But instead of Rand Paul, his home-state tea party darling, Sen. Ted Cruz, has been drumming up anti-strike fervor, a situation that could cause political headaches for Cornyn if the two are on opposite sides.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.: Paul is definitely a “no” on the resolution to authorize force in Syria; the question is how much noise will he make between now and a final vote. He could force leaders to use the maximum amount of debate time by staging a filibuster that needs to be cut off. He might also pressure other GOP colleagues who ordinarily might have supported engagement in Syria to oppose it for fear of political retribution from the right. On Monday, he sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to senators urging them to vote “no.”

Sens. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va./Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.: Manchin has demonstrated a near-compulsive need to insert himself into this Congress’ more significant debates, with a mixed record of success (a loss on background checks; a win on student loans).

On Syria, he and Heitkamp have floated a resolution that, as we previously reported, seemed at first to have no natural constituency. But now that the Syrians appear to be willing to surrender their chemical weapons to an international authority, the Democratic senators’ proposal seems almost prescient. The Manchin-Heitkamp plan would give the Syrian regime 45 days to sign on to the Chemical Weapons Convention and take “concrete steps” to comply. If the Syrians didn’t comply, the U.S. would be permitted to consider unspecified retribution.

A source tracking the resolution said Manchin and Heitkamp have been assured a vote on their plan, but leadership sources would not confirm that.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.: Durbin is the No. 2 Senate Democrat, an ally of Obama, a previous opponent to wars and a supporter of human rights. He’s also now the guy who controls the giant defense spending bill. He backed the Senate Foreign Relations language out of committee, but as we reported earlier, he made a careful effort to reconcile his past positions with his current ones.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.: Relatively new to the foreign affairs game, Corker has been boosting his public profile on the issue as the new top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. But Syria will be the first real test of his internal clout on an important issue. A GOP aide told us two weeks ago that Corker’s influence on international affairs was “growing.” Yet the current Republican Conference is difficult to navigate, and with Paul or Cruz speaking loudly on Syria, it’s unclear which voices will rise above the dissent.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: There is a certain power in having strong positions and no reservations about using multiple platforms to express them. McCain is the unofficial leader of the Senate’s hawks. He and other supporters of a military strike are looking for a stronger U.S. response to the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons than the administration is currently contemplating.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.: Ayotte was one of a handful of senators who dined with Biden at the Naval Observatory on Sunday night. She had not yet decided how she would vote at the time of publication, and a “no” certainly might jeopardize her tenuous place as the replacement for former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman in McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham’s inner circle of hawks. Ayotte fits a lot of interesting, and at times conflicting, profiles in addition to her association with McCain: She’s one of the last New England Republicans and rode a tea party wave to Congress in 2010.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.: Reed is one of the smartest and most articulate members on foreign affairs that no one ever talks to. In line to take the Senate Armed Services Committee gavel when Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., retires next year, Reed was one of 23 senators to vote against authorizing force in Iraq in 2002. If he does say something on Syria, expect it to be thoughtful and nuanced.

  • Anonymous

    Somebody essentially help to make seriously articles I’d state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I amazed with the research you made to make this particular put up incredible. Excellent task!

  • Anonymous

    I’m still learning from you, as I’m trying to achieve my goals. I absolutely liked reading all that is written on your site.Keep the information coming. I loved it!

  • Anonymous

    Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains. If you know of any please share. Appreciate it!

  • Anonymous

    Very good written information. It will be beneficial to everyone who usess it, including myself. Keep up the good work – i will definitely read more posts.

  • Anonymous

    As soon as I discovered this site I went on reddit to share some of the love with them.

  • Anonymous

    Very good blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused .. Any ideas? Cheers!

  • Anonymous

    I was just seeking this info for a while. After 6 hours of continuous Googleing, at last I got it in your web site. I wonder what is the lack of Google strategy that don’t rank this kind of informative web sites in top of the list. Normally the top websites are full of garbage.

  • Anonymous

    Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. I’d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    you have a great blog here! would you like to make some invite posts on my blog?

  • Anonymous

    I’d incessantly want to be update on new content on this web site, saved to bookmarks! .

  • Anonymous

    Great post, you have pointed out some superb details , I too conceive this s a very superb website.

  • Anonymous

    you’re truly a excellent webmaster. The website loading pace is amazing. It kind of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick. Also, The contents are masterwork. you’ve done a great activity in this subject!

  • Anonymous

    Good day! I simply want to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you might have here on this post. I might be coming again to your weblog for more soon.

  • Anonymous

    I am always looking online for articles that can facilitate me. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Hello very nice website!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally?KI’m glad to seek out so many useful information here in the publish, we’d like work out more techniques on this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

  • desene animate

    Thanks-a-mundo for the post.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

  • Anonymous

    It’s actually a great and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    I like this web blog so much, saved to favorites.

  • federated insurance owatonna

    Whats amazing post here. I will turn attention on your description.

  • State farm auto insurance

    Compare State farm quotes to save more on auto and home insurance policies.

  • county mutual insurance company

    Combine & compare to save more on quotes. Get cheapest insurance here

  • federated national insurance rating

    Save more with us and online auto insurance comparison.

  • Anonymous

    Great info and straight to the point. I am not sure if this is actually the best place to ask but do you guys have any ideea where to employ some professional writers? Thanks :)

  • commercial insurance quote

    Save more with us and online auto insurance comparison.

  • acuity home insurance quotes

    Try discounts up to 40% on auto or home insurance.

  • omega insurance holdings

    Compare quotes by zip code instantly. Save up to $520 on combined auto policies!

  • Anonymous

    Hello there, just become alert to your weblog via Google, and located that it is really informative. I am gonna be careful for brussels. I will appreciate for those who continue this in future. A lot of other folks shall be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

  • Anonymous

    certainly like your web-site however you need to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very bothersome to inform the truth then again I’ll definitely come again again.

  • Anonymous

    I am now not sure where you’re getting your information, however great topic. I must spend some time finding out much more or working out more. Thank you for wonderful information I was in search of this info for my mission.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t usually comment but I gotta admit regards for the post on this special one : D.

  • Anonymous

    I have recently started a website, the info you provide on this web site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  • Anonymous

    Its superb as your other posts : D, appreciate it for posting.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...