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Senate to Return Briefly on Friday to Expedite Syria Showdown Vote (Updated)
Posted at 6:13 p.m. on Sept. 4, 2013
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.”
Asked about the prospects for the resolution winning adoption on the floor, Durbin said that’s still “hard to say.” Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of Foreign Relations, said he’s waiting for leadership to decide on the course of action. The New Jersey Democrat is expected to manage the resolution when it hits the floor.
“The leadership has a couple of opportunities here,” he said. “They could offer a substitute and incorporate the views of members of both sides of the aisle based on the foundation of what the committee did. They could permit amendments, agreed upon amendments, to be considered. So I am going to wait to decide what the leader decides is the process before I make any such decisions.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has made clear that he intends to take the action needed to require a 60-vote supermajority for passage. The resolution doesn’t appear to meet all the requirements to earn filibuster protection.
“I don’t have intentions of holding it up, but I do have intentions of holding it to the highest vote threshold that we can, and that would be a 60-vote threshold,” Paul said.
Paul said the 10-7 committee vote was closer than he expected. Nonetheless, at least one senator who opposed the measure in committee would at least help Reid clear the filibuster hurdle.
“I won’t mount the procedural battle here,” said Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., who complained that the resolution had gone in the wrong direction during the markup process as it evolved from the text circulated Wednesday night.
“Congress is endorsing both the military strike and the arming of the rebels, and I think that’s — that’s a big pill to swallow for both the Senate and the House to pass an authorization that authorizes a military strike and the long-term arming of the opposition forces,” Murphy said.
That language, authored by Arizona Republican John McCain and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons, was key to getting McCain on board.
“The adoption of the amendment was so vital I think to this whole effort that makes sure that the battlefield equation is changed in order to have success,” McCain said. “I am pleased that the committee adopted … that amendment, and it makes it now a complete package of degrading his chemical capabilities, support for the Free Syrian Army and changing the battlefield equation, which now gives us a package which is a policy, which I think will send a message to Bashar al-Assad.”
Durbin said the voting public’s perception of the issue could evolve, which would change the calculation for senators casting their votes.
“There’s another reality here, too,” Durbin said. “Many members will be noncommital and even generally opposed until faced with the reality of a choice, and I’ve seen that many times, that when they’re faced with a reality, they look at things a little differently.”
Interestingly, as far apart as McCain and Paul are on the substance, they each have called on President Barack Obama to do more to make the case to the American people that action against Syria’s use of chemical weapons is in the best interests of the United States.
“It shows that there’s a very good chance when this moves over to the House, that this is still up for grabs,” Paul said. “The president needs to try to convince the American people that there’s a compelling interest … in Syria and the civil war. Everything about us getting involved may well make the situation worse over there.”
Paul said earlier Wednesday that only the House could stop the authorization.
Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.