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Senior US Senators: Congress May Never Vote on Syria Strikes

Sep. 11, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
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With President Barack Obama asking congressional leaders in both chambers to delay a vote, some senators involved in the crafting of Syria force measures said they doubt lawmakers will ever vote to approve military action. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)
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The US Senate is unlikely to vote on a resolution authorizing military force in Syria, even if a Russian plan to take control of Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons falls through, senior senators say.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee moved at breakneck speed — while still on recess — to last week craft and approve a measure authorizing President Barack Obama to launch a limited military strike.

But with Obama during a primetime Tuesday address announcing he has asked congressional leaders in both chambers to delay a vote, some senators involved in the crafting of Syria force measures said Wednesday they doubt lawmakers will ever vote to approve military action.

“I think it’s going to be very, very quiet. Everyone has been holding their breath. Now there’s nothing for them to be doing,” Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., told Defense News. “All these efforts … are kind of subsiding. Since the president has abandoned this [vote], I think it’s going to settle down and no one is going to be talking about it.”

Would either or both chambers likely vote on a Syria use-of-force measure should a Russian-offered plan to have Assad give up his weapons fall apart, and Obama decides to launch Tomahawk missile strikes?

“No, I don’t think so,” Inhofe said during a brief interview. “I think it goes away.”

SASC member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called the prospect for a vote “unlikely.”

“I think it’s very possible there will be no vote,” Sessions said. “I don’t think [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid is going to ask his people to vote if the president doesn’t want it.”

To that end, House Democrats left a classified Syria briefing earlier Wednesday and told reporters they believe a use-of-force measure would fail in their chamber.

The Senate’s leading proponent of big military mission in Syria, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told Defense News it’s too soon to say whether the chamber will vote on a Syria measure.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who helped craft the panel’s use-of-force measure.

“No,” he said Wednesday when asked by reporters if he expected a vote. “We’re moving on to energy efficiency,” he added sarcastically.

“I’d be very surprised if, over the next couple weeks, anything is voted on,” Corker said. “It may never.

“I think this is on hold for a while,” he said. “I don’t think anything’s going to happen.”

Until the Russia proposal situation plays out, Corker said it is hard for lawmakers to even talk about what resolutions and amendments should say.

“I think when you’ve got a situation like this, where there’s a diplomatic opportunity, I think that kind of stalls things off,” Corker said. “Let me just say, I wish … everyone involved in this God speed.”

McCain said the White House should give Moscow “days” to show its plan is credible.

“If it were to fall apart, I think the president has to explore his options, and see what the votes are,” McCain. “But I am very, very skeptical about the [Russia proposal] succeeding.”

McCain and a bipartisan group of senators have been working on an amendment to the Foreign Relations Committee-approved measure that would tie a congressional authorization to a deadline by which a UN-supported effort to take over Assad’s weapons would have to succeed.

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