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Posts in "Syria"
September 22, 2014
The senator leading a push to authorize the war against ISIS after the elections wants an intelligence briefing first, so lawmakers know the full extent of the covert operations already under way.
Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez aired his frustrations last week when Secretary of State John Kerry came to testify before his old committee about the administration’s plans to fight the terror group known as ISIS or ISIL.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., asked about published reports of covert efforts to train Syrian rebels.
“I know it’s been written about in the public domain, that there is, quote, ‘a covert operation.’ But … I can’t confirm or deny whatever that’s been written about and I can’t really go into any kind of possible program,” Kerry responded.
That prompted Menendez to chime in shortly afterward, saying the committee’s inability to get access to information about covert operations was an issue with both the Obama administration and the Senate itself. He questioned how the panel could properly draft a new Authorization for Use of Military Force without such details. Full story
September 17, 2014
Sen. Tim Kaine is introducing a limited war authorization against ISIS, even as Congress is set to jet out of town without an authorization vote before the elections.
The Virginia Democrat, who has led the push for Congress to go on record, would limit the use of ground forces in the conflict to rescue missions and to go after high-value targets. The authority against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, would expire after a year.
He also proposes to repeal the 2002 authorization to use military force (AUMF) in Iraq, something the White House has said it supports.
“Last week, President Obama laid out a strong case for the need to degrade and destroy ISIL and invited broader Congressional support for this effort,” Kaine said in a statement. “I was heartened when Foreign Relations Committee Chairman (Robert) Menendez answered this call by saying the committee would soon craft authorizing language for the U.S. military mission. It’s my hope that this proposal will help move the ball forward on what a specific and narrow authorization for limited military action against ISIL should look like.”
Kaine again knocked the Congress for ducking the authorization question for now.
“If Congress isn’t willing to do the hard work – to debate and vote on an authorization – we should not be asking our servicemembers to go into harm’s way,” he said.
Here’s the full text of Kaine’s proposal: Full story
September 11, 2014
Updated 6:40 p.m. | The Senate’s top Pentagon appropriator told reporters Thursday he will be probing the Obama administration about legal authorities for the fight against Islamic State extremists, including in Syria.
“I have a lot of questions to ask about how they’re both interpreting the vote on the invasion of Iraq and the [authorization of use of military force] with Afghanistan,” Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said after a news conference where Senate Democratic leaders called for Congress to unite behind President Barack Obama as the nation confronts ISIS.
Durbin, who is chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said after an all-senators closed briefing that he had gotten answers to questions about authority for the new military actions. Asked whether or not they were answers he wanted, the senator said the issue will be discussed at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing next week.
September 3, 2014
Updated 6:03 p.m. | NORFOLK, Va. — Sen. John McCain said Wednesday that Congress shouldn’t leave Washington for the mid-term election break until authorizing the use of force against ISIS.
Speaking with reporters after a campaign event for GOP Senate candidate Ed Gillespie at a VFW hall, the Arizonan dismissed the idea that the Senate is only scheduled to be in session for two weeks in September, where advancing a continuing resolution to keep the government running will highlight the agenda.
“I believe that these two weeks should be used to continue the CR, but most importantly the issue of this whole ISIS situation has to be reviewed. We have to have hearings. I know we’re scheduling hearings in the Armed Services Committee, and we have to act, in my view, on the authorization of use of military force,” McCain said. “And we don’t have to leave after two weeks. We can stay in session. This is an international crisis. This is a direct threat to the United States of America. That’s according to the intelligence people, the secretary of Defense, etc.”
September 2, 2014
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., plans to introduce legislation next week that would give President Barack Obama definitive authority to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State terror group in Syria — as senators on both sides of the aisle ramp up calls for military action.
“This will ensure there’s no question that the president has the legal authority he needs to use airstrikes in Syria,” Nelson said in a release.
While Obama has ordered airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, some policy experts have questioned whether the administration has the clear legal authority — independent of Congress — to broaden the air campaign to strike targets in Syria. Nelson’s legislation is designed to allay those doubts. Full story
August 26, 2014
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.”
April 8, 2014
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
“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.”
September 10, 2013
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.
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
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.
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.
September 9, 2013
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?
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.
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