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September 1, 2014

Posts in "Syria"

August 26, 2014

McConnell Wants Details From Obama on Plans for ISIS

mcconnell 044 030514 445x335 McConnell Wants Details From Obama on Plans for ISIS

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants President Barack Obama to present Congress with a plan to fight the Islamic State, including any potential needs for a new authorization for use of military force.

“The President needs to develop a regional strategy, working with our allies, to defeat ISIL, and to use the full extent of his authorities to attack this enemy force. The President needs to present this plan to the Congress and the American people. And where the President believes he lacks authority to execute such a strategy, he needs to explain to the Congress how additional authority for the use of force will protect America,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “The threat from ISIL can no longer be ignored, and it is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response.”

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April 8, 2014

McCain, Kerry Have Tense Exchange at Foreign Relations Hearing (Video)

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., confronted Secretary of State John Kerry about the Obama administration’s foreign policy in a heated exchange at a Senate Foreign Relations hearing Tuesday.

“I must say, I think you’re about to hit the trifecta,” McCain told Kerry, citing the ongoing conflict in Syria, the seemingly stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the uncertain nuclear deal with Iran, which McCain predicted would collapse.

McCain further lambasted Kerry, who was testifying on the administration’s national security and foreign policy budget priorities, on failing to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine, saying the failure to do so was “beyond logic.”

“On the issue of Ukraine, my hero, Teddy Roosevelt, used to say talk softly, but carry a big stick,” said the Arizona Republican. “What you’re doing is talking strongly and carrying a very small stick, in fact, a twig.” Full story

January 21, 2014

McCain Says Obama Is Worse Than Carter

“I thought Jimmy Carter was bad.”

That’s what Sen. John McCain said Tuesday, speaking about the Syria policy of President Barack Obama’s administration. The Arizona Republican went further, saying the Syria situation could ultimately pose a terrorist threat to the United States. McCain made his comments during a wide-ranging interview on the Phoenix radio station KFYI.

“If you don’t care about Syria, my dear listeners, if you don’t care about Syria, it’s becoming a regional conflict. It’s spread to Lebanon. It’s spread to Turkey. It’s spread to Jordan. It is spreading throughout the region, and sooner or later it will affect the United States of America if you allow a place to become a base for al-Qaida,” McCain said. “I have never seen anything like this in my life. I thought Jimmy Carter was bad, but he pales in comparison to this president in my view.”

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September 10, 2013

Senate Hits Pause Button on Syria Response

luncheons025 071613 445x296 Senate Hits Pause Button on Syria Response

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As developments in Syria moved faster than the Senate’s slow-moving schedule, senators from both parties called for a pause in the chamber’s action on authorizing the use of force against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., went so far as to suggest that open discussions about revising the use of force resolution that he helped draft as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee might be counterproductive — at least until there’s a chance to assess the credibility of reports that Syria has agreed to give up its chemical weapons.

“My thoughts are we hit the pause button until we see whether … there’s any credibility to this offer. My guess is that, you know, that I don’t have a lot of faith in the Russians personally, but I think on the other hand, apparently at the G-20 meeting there was a side meeting at the end … the president had in the hand the fact that the Foreign Relations Committee had voted out the authorization for the use of force,” Corker said.

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McConnell Opposes Syria Strike

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday announced his opposition to authorizing strikes on Syria at the same time that it was becoming clearer that the Senate may not proceed with an outright authorization resolution.

McConnell, who is up for re-election in 2014 and facing a conservative challenger, is the only one of the “big four” congressional leaders to oppose striking Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.

Libertarian Rand Paul, the junior senator in the Bluegrass State, has been one of the most vocal opponents of engaging in Syria, though McConnell took steps to point out that he was not opposing strikes on isolationist grounds. Full story

Senate Syria ‘Gang’ Discussing New Resolution

Another “gang” may have popped up in the Senate, this time on Syria.

Some of the members have past experience in such bipartisan groups. As many as nine senators, including a member of the Democratic leadership, are working on a new resolution that would ultimately authorize the use of force against Syria unless the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles can be secured by the international community.

Under the proposal, which is still in the conceptual stages, the United Nations would need to agree to a resolution acknowledging that the Syrian government was responsible for gassing its own people. Then, the United Nations would need to act to secure Syria’s remaining weapons to prevent future use, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Otherwise, the measure would authorize the use of force.

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Rand Paul Doubts Senate Will Ever Hold Syria Vote

Sen. Rand Paul says he thinks the news of a proposal by the Russian government to secure chemical weapons in Syria could mean the Senate never votes on authorizing military force.

“I think the Russian developments and the possibility of diplomacy makes a vote less likely to ever occur, which I think is a good thing,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters Tuesday morning. “If the international community were to take over the chemical weapons, it takes away one of my biggest fears about the whole thing, and I think it makes it less of a pressing issue.”

Paul made his comments following a bipartisan and bicameral meeting of mainly House members early Tuesday morning to discuss strategy in opposition to using military force against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 10:13 a.m.

September 9, 2013

Rand Paul Wants Vote on Presidential War Powers

Senate Luncheons 77 061813 445x289 Rand Paul Wants Vote on Presidential War Powers

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rand Paul wants to put his colleagues on the record on the question of the presidential authority to use force without the consent of Congress.

The Kentucky Republican has drafted an amendment to the Senate’s authorization for use of force against Syria, though timing for any amendment votes came into serious question late Monday after comments by President Barack Obama.

Nonetheless, the Paul amendment asks senators to answer a simple, but problematic question: Does Obama have authority to launch military strikes against Syria without Congress passing the resolution authorizing the use of force?

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By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 7:45 p.m.

Obama to Meet Tuesday With Senate Republicans, Democrats on Syria

President Barack Obama plans to meet with both Senate Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday.

“After calling the White House today, we learned that the President would like to attend the Senate GOP lunch tomorrow to discuss the Syria resolution. He is welcome to join the lunch, and we are told that he will in fact attend,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Obama was already scheduled to meet with Senate Democrats at the Capitol Tuesday, and on Sunday he dropped in on a dinner with Senate Republicans and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to discuss Syria.

Earlier Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., noted on the floor that the president had offered to visit with Senate Republicans, but they had not yet responded to Obama.

10 Senators to Watch This Week on Syria

mcconnellcornyn090913 445x302 10 Senators to Watch This Week on Syria

(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. Full story

Reid Warns Against Staying on the Sidelines in Syria

reid062413 445x296 Reid Warns Against Staying on the Sidelines in Syria

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama has a tough act to follow during his Tuesday evening address to the nation on U.S. intervention in Syria — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The Nevada Democrat gave one the most forceful speeches yet in support of U.S. intervention in Syria on the Senate floor Monday, making an open and robust comparison to the atrocities of the Holocaust.

“As America faces yet another crisis of conscience, another opportunity to intervene on behalf of humanity, my mind returns to that turning point in the world’s history, when the United States of America faced down an evil regime that murdered millions of innocent citizens. Millions and millions of civilians and prisoners of war were murdered by gas in Nazi death camps,” Reid said. “Belsen, Trebinka, Auschwitz. ‘Never again,’ swore the world, ‘never again’ would we permit the use of these poisonous weapons of war.”

Reid used a familiar quote, often attributed to Dante’s “Inferno,” noting it has prominent placement at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

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September 8, 2013

Obama to Meet With Senate Democrats Tuesday on Syria

President Barack Obama will travel to the Hill on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Syria with Senate Democrats, a Senate Democratic aide confirmed Sunday.

The administration has been working in overdrive to build a compelling case to lawmakers for intervention in the war-torn country in the days since announcing the president would seek congressional authorization for military action. The Senate vote for authorization faces a 60-vote threshold, and it’s unclear whether there are enough members in support of intervention to clear that hurdle. Senate Democrats — several of whom have said already they cannot support military action in Syria — could be key in providing Obama at least one chamber of support, especially as House Republicans look poised to defect from an authorization resolution en masse.

A senior Senate Republican aide said Sunday evening that leadership had not yet heard anything from the White House about a potential meeting Tuesday with the GOP.

A rebuff of an authorization resolution in the chamber controlled by his own party would be embarrassing for the president, much like a recent British parliament vote that rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s request for military engagement. Though Obama likely could move forward with force in some capacity without a congressional vote of confidence, now that he’s asked for it, proceeding without it could be even more politically perilous than had he not asked at all.

That Obama is coming to the Hill himself, after top officials like Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made multiple appearances before lawmakers last week — in multiple closed-door, classified briefings and open hearings — shows just how important the White House believes this is and how much they recognize that military engagement of any kind in Syria is a tough sell.

September 5, 2013

McCain Faces Opposition to Syria Intervention at Arizona Town Halls

mccain 028 090413 445x303 McCain Faces Opposition to Syria Intervention at Arizona Town Halls

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John McCain was back in Arizona on Thursday, explaining his push for U.S. action against Syria to crowds of skeptical constituents.

“I promise you it is ample evidence, and you will see a lot more, including intercepts that … will be made public about how Bashar al-Assad’s people ordered these chemical weapons to be used,” the Republican senator said in response to a question from a skeptical individual at a town hall meeting in Tucson.

Existence of those communications have been reported by numerous media outlets, including in a lengthy report by Foreign Policy. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that U.S. intelligence didn’t get the intercepts processed before the chemical weapons attack took place in August.

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CIA Evidence of ‘Horrendous’ Syrian Atrocities Will Be Given to Senators

feinstein051513 445x295 CIA Evidence of Horrendous Syrian Atrocities Will Be Given to Senators

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate Intelligence Committee will provide all senators with a DVD, prepared by the CIA, showing the effects of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said Thursday.

“I had asked the CIA to prepare a DVD, which would have specific instances of evidence — largely victims and what what we see means. What pinpointed eyes means, what the convulsions mean, a number of aspects,” the California Democrat said. “We received that this morning, and it’s horrendous. So, we are having that DVD multiplied and we’re going to get it out to every member of the Senate, and possibly members of the House.”

Feinstein said her primary responsibility in the debate over an authorization for use of military force against Syria is to make sure that her Senate colleagues have access to all available information.

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September 4, 2013

Senate to Return Briefly on Friday to Expedite Syria Showdown Vote (Updated)

menendez 002 090313 445x327 Senate to Return Briefly on Friday to Expedite Syria Showdown Vote (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 8:43 p.m. | In an effort to move the resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria to the floor as quickly as possible, the Senate is expected to return for a brief session on Friday.

The short session would allow the filing of the use of force resolution, a senior Senate Democratic aide said.

The move would allow the measure, which was reported out by the Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday afternoon on a 10-7 vote, to be on the calendar by the time the Senate really returns on Sept. 9. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could then move to proceed and file a motion to limit debate, setting up a first test vote on Sept. 11.

Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., a member of Foreign Relations, said leadership would do what’s needed to move the measure as quickly as possible.

“As I understand it, Reid wants to try to move this so it can be considered as early as Monday of next week,” Durbin said. “I don’t know if there’s going to be objection to the motion to proceed. We just have to wait and see.”

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