Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 26, 2015

Posts in "Syria"

November 19, 2015

Paul Holding Up Spending Bill Over Refugee Welfare

rand paul

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul says he won’t allow a transportation and housing spending bill through quickly without a vote about Syrian refugees, likely halting final passage until after Thanksgiving.

In a statement, Paul called it “an outrage” that Senate leadership filed cloture on the bill without his amendment regarding welfare for new refugees, and he promised he “will not back down.” Full story

November 17, 2015

McConnell Joins Call for Syrian Refugees Admission ‘Pause’

syrian refugees

McConnell and other Republican senators conduct a news conference Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined the calls for a “pause” in Syrian refugees admissions, echoing Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

The Kentucky Republican pointed to the influx of Iraqi refugees in his home state indicted on terrorism charges back in 2011. Full story

McCain: Obama Assertion on ISIS ‘Embarrassing’

paris attacks

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain criticized President Barack Obama’s defiant defense of the administration’s strategy to combat the Islamic State terror group.

Speaker with reporters Tuesday, the Arizona Republican took umbrage with Obama’s assertion that GOP hawks have failed to offer an alternative plan for fighting the violent extremist groups. He also said building the Arab ground force he envisions is possible as long as Obama pledges to help it take down Syrian President Bashar Assad. Full story

Paris Terror Attacks Give Graham an Opening in 2016 Race

Graham (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Graham (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Lindsey Graham has tried in vain to make the GOP presidential race a fight over who has the best plan to crush the Islamic State. But as coordinated terror attacks on Paris dominate headlines, will primary voters finally listen to the South Carolina Republican?

Graham has long pushed for military intervention in Syria, with a substantial ground component. He told CQ Roll Call Monday that he hoped his message would pick up traction, particularly in New Hampshire — host of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary and where he will travel this weekend with Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain.

Full story

October 19, 2015

Rand Paul Muses About President Rubio Bringing Nuclear War

Rand Paul was among the presidential candidates who came to Washington to cast votes against Planned Parenthood, participating in the Voters First candidate forum via remote. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Paul said the U.S. was”lucky” Rubio was not in the White House during the Cold War. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Does Sen. Rand Paul think having Marco Rubio in the Oval Office in an earlier era could have brought about a nuclear war with the Soviet Union?

In a new interview, it sure sounds that way.

“We are really lucky he was never president during the Cold War,” the Kentucky Republican, who, like Rubio, is seeking the GOP nomination for president said in an interview with CNBC posted Monday.

Full story

September 30, 2015

Corker Wants Kerry to Testify About Putin, Syria

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee wants to hear directly from Secretary of State John Kerry about the situation in Syria, as Russia has begun to conduct airstrikes.

Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker is inviting Kerry to testify next week, though the State Department has not confirmed he will appear before the committee he chaired as a senator from Massachusetts. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:51 p.m.
Policy, Syria

September 9, 2015

Grassley Warns of ‘Floodgates’ Opening for Syrian Refugees

syrian refugees

Grassley says the administration may open “floodgates” to refugees from Syria. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo).

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman says the Obama administration is considering allowing a large influx of refugees from Syria into the United States.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, was among the lawmakers who met Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as Assistant Secretary Anne Richard, about the refugee crisis.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 4:46 p.m.
Policy, Syria

With Kerry on the Hill, McCain Blasts Inaction on Syrian Refugees (Video)

McCain, Kerry chat during an Armed Services Committee hearing on July 29. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McCain, Kerry chat during an Armed Services Committee hearing on July 29. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John McCain blasted the Obama administration in a Wednesday floor speech for inaction on the Syrian refugee crisis, delivering it with a chart featuring the tragic photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi.

“This photo, which was taken shortly after Aylan’s dead body was washed ashore, has opened the world’s eyes to this devastating crisis,” the Arizona Republican said. “Within hours of this photo being posted, people across the world began to share it on social media, using a hashtag in Arabic that translates to, ‘humanity washed ashore.’ This image has haunted the world. But what should haunt us even more than the horror unfolding before our eyes is the thought that the United States will continue to do nothing meaningful about it.”

Full story

September 8, 2015

Lindsey Graham Floats Emergency Supplemental for Syrian Refugee Crisis

lindsey graham

Graham speaks during a Sept. 8 luncheon at the National Press Club. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The State Department’s top Senate appropriator said Tuesday he would be willing to advance an emergency supplemental to address the crisis of Syrian refugees.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, said if the United States does not change course with respect to accepting refugees, the country might as well “take the Statue of Liberty and tear it down.”

Full story

July 8, 2015

Lindsey Graham Makes Case for War

Graham outlined his foreign policy vision on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Graham outlined his foreign policy vision on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Perhaps more than any other presidential candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham enjoys telling people to vote for somebody else.

“Radical Islam is not going to be compromised with. They are religious Nazis. Somebody better go over there and hit them before they hit us,” Graham said Wednesday. “There is no alternative to going in on the ground and pulling the caliphate up by the roots. If that scares you, don’t vote for me.”

Full story

June 9, 2015

Chris Murphy Wants Vote to Ban Ground Combat in Iraq and Syria

Chris murphy iraq syria ground troops combat

Murphy is pushing to bar ground combat forces from engaging in Iraq and Syria as insurance in case a Republican wins the White House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy wants to ensure U.S. ground forces aren’t sent back into combat in Iraq and Syria in the event a Republican wins the White House next year.

The Connecticut Democrat told CQ Roll Call he was preparing amendments to both the National Defense Authorization Act pending on the Senate floor and the State Department authorization that’s set to be considered Tuesday afternoon by the Foreign Relations Committee to block ground forces in combat roles.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:35 p.m.
Iraq, ISIS, Syria

February 10, 2015

Durbin: ‘Lives Are in the Balance’ in ISIS War Authorization

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Biivesl Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Lives are in the balance,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin told reporters Tuesday on the importance of getting the balance right in a proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State terror group.

The No. 2 Democrat spoke at length to reporters after being briefed on the draft resolution presented by President Barack Obama’s top aide and counsel during Tuesday’s party lunch.

He detailed the administration’s plans to have a broad-based authorization that would cover the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, without limiting the fight geographically to Syria and Iraq, as well as the key question of limits on offensive ground operations. The Illinois Democrat also is the ranking member of the Defense appropriations subcommittee.

How does this compare with language the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved last year?
Durbin: “The starting point was the [former Foreign Relations Chairman Robert] Menendez language. Made some changes on it. We’re really working with critical, important language, and it comes down to a phrase or two, and we just have to look at it very closely.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz. finds it unconstitutional, too restrictive to the commander-in-chief. How do you find common ground? Is a three-year time frame enough comfort?

Durbin: “I like the three-year time frame. It means that it will apply to this president during the remainder of his term and to the succeeding president for one year. What it means: whoever’s elected president after Obama has to start thinking immediately about the renewal of AUMF and discussing it with Congress.

“I disagree with John, obviously. John and I see the world quite a bit differently. I think the Constitution delegates to Congress the authority to declare war, and the American people speak through Congress. And if we put limitations on the president about who he can fight, where he can fight, how he can fight — I think that’s consistent with the intention of the Founding Fathers.”

Is the draft crafted to avoid mission creep?

Durbin: “Well, that’s why we always come back to the same phrase — enduring offensive ground operations. As someone noted in our meeting here, incidentally we’re talking about the Department of Defense. So, there is hardly any military operation that cannot be characterized as a defensive operation, and those are exempt. What we limit are enduring offensive. I hate to get into weeds but when you’re talking about the commitment of a nation to war and lives are in the balance, that’s where we have to really dig in.”

What does the proposal do in terms of the 2002 authorization?

Durbin: “The Afghan AUMF continues, and it’s the Iraq resolution that’s being replaced.”

Would 2001 AUMF also be placed on a three-year timeline?

Durbin: “That wasn’t brought up, and I don’t think that’s the proposal.”

Do you have concerns the White House draft would change the Senate Foreign Affairs version with regard to geographic limits?

Durbin: “See now that’s tricky. So, here’s why it’s tricky: If we limit our actions against ISIS to any locale, it really means by argument that there are safe havens they can go to and escape pursuit by the United States. I understand that. We’ve got to be able to pursue non-state, multinational operations wherever they threaten the United States or our interests.”

Are you comfortable with specifics tailoring to Islamic State? The associated forces phrase was very problematic in 2001.

Durbin: “It is still. It is still. They’re hard to pin down. If you had asked us three years ago, ‘What about the Islamic State?’ people would have opposed, [questioning] ‘What is it?’ That just shows you how quickly the circumstances and names can change. So we’ve got to give enough flexibility to have the next generation of ISIS also in our target.”

Both parties have said they want to see significant changes to what the president is suggesting but in opposite directions. How does bipartisan compromise happen and how long will it take?

Durbin: “I don’t know the answer to that because we have not really taken a task like this on in a long, long time. The last time we came close to it was the decision to invade Iraq, where there was a lot of debate, back and forth, Democrats and Republicans. It was [then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.] and it was the Republicans who were stepping up with their own views of things. I assume it starts, the first venue is the Foreign Relations Committee, but beyond that it clearly is going to be a subject for floor debate.”

Debate on war hasn’t taken place in a decade. Why has it been so delayed when we’re already in the war and months of work is expected?

Durbin: “It is not easy but it’s important. And I hope all members of both political parties will accept their responsibility. This is one of those things where we know lives are at stake – American lives as well as the survival of our enemy. So we’ve got to take the time to get it right but we shouldn’t delay it in petty politics.”

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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February 6, 2015

ISIS AUMF Debate a 2016 Foreign Policy Test

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cruz, left, and Graham are two senators seen as potential Republican candidates for the White House in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress is gearing up — belatedly — for a full-throated war debate that will serve as a proving ground for potential presidential candidates heading into 2016.

With a draft Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State terror group expected on Capitol Hill by the middle of the week, as lawmakers complete work before a weeklong Presidents Day recess, the debate over how much authority to give President Barack Obama will soon take center stage.

The issue will provide opportunities for jockeying among those senators seeking their party’s nomination for president, including Lindsey Graham, who recently announced his intention to explore the possibilities.

Full story

January 20, 2015

Rand Paul’s Message: ‘Do No Harm’ In Foreign Affairs

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., makes his way through the basement of the Capitol before a vote on the Senate floor, December 12, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Paul will have his own response to the State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Possible 2016 contender Sen. Rand Paul says that the foreign policy potion of his own response to Tuesday’s State of the Union address will focus on an old adage from his medical career: “Do no harm.”

“I think one the biggest things about foreign policy is that you should think before you act, and that’s one of the themes that I’ll have tonight is: First, do no harm. As physicians, we’re taught first to do no harm, which means think through,” the Kentucky Republican said. “You have enormous power as a surgeon. Before you cut into someone, make sure you have the right diagnosis. Try not to make mistakes.”

Paul is issuing his own video response, separate from the official message to be delivered by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

In an interview in his Washington office ahead of the speech by President Barack Obama, Paul used the potential for additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as an example where Congress should avoid doing such harm. Full story

January 16, 2015

Tony Blair Delivers ‘Churchillian’ Speech to Senate, House GOP

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair drew three standing ovations when he addressed the joint House-Senate Republican retreat Thursday with a speech that one lawmaker likened to the oratory of Winston Churchill.

Blair’s speech, which was closed to the public and the media, included a call for America to lead on the world stage rather than to try to be loved there, according to a person in attendance. Rep. Tom Cole said Blair focused on the importance of fighting against extremism around the world at an event said to be well attended by members and staffers alike. Full story

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