By JOHN BRESNAHAN and MANU RAJU
September 04, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Politico” – A new use-of-force resolution for Syria sets a 60-day deadline, with one 30-day extension possible, for President Barack Obama to launch military strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad — and it will also bar the involvement of U.S. ground forces in Syria.
The revised resolution was crafted by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, following several days of negotiations. The panel is set to vote Wednesday on the proposal.
Aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were also involved in the discussions over the revised resolution.
Menendez and Corker both support Obama’s call for “limited, proportional” attacks on the Assad regime over its alleged use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.
Over the last two days, Corker had been insisting on a 30-day deadline for Obama to order any military action against Syria, but Democrats objected to that requirement.
The Tennessee Republican had also sought a flat-out prohibition on the insertion of any American ground forces into Syria.
But Democrats insisted that Obama should be allowed to do so under limited circumstances, such as special-forces operations or to secure stocks of chemical weapons. Corker aides noted the bill includes a prohibition on using American ground forces for “combat operations,” although it is silent on using troops in emergency situations.
“Sharing President Obama’s view that our nation is best served when we come together as one, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has crafted a bipartisan Authorization for the Use of Military Force that we believe reflects the will and concerns of Democrats and Republicans alike,” Menendez said in a statement.
“Together we have pursued a course of action that gives the President the authority he needs to deploy force in response to the Assad regime’s criminal use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, while assuring that the authorization is narrow and focused, limited in time, and assures that the Armed Forces of the United States will not be deployed for combat operations in Syria.”
“Our negotiations have led to a much narrower authorization that provides for the appropriate use of force while limiting the scope and duration of military action, prohibiting boots on the ground, and requiring the Obama administration to submit their broader plan for Syria,” said Corker in his own statement.
“I look forward to the input from my colleagues on the committee and in Congress who will have an opportunity to weigh in on what we’ve produced.”
It remains an open question whether the new resolution can get 60 votes to overcome an expected filibuster by opponents of U.S. intervention in Syria’s two-year-old conflict. Reid and other top Democrats believe they can get 45 to 50 Democrats to back the use-of-force resolution, but aren’t sure there will be enough GOP support to get cloture. Neither McConnell nor Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the minority whip, have said how they will vote, and there is strong opposition among rank-and-file Republicans to any U.S. involvement in Syria’s war.
Since Obama went to Congress with a resolution authorizing the use-of-force — rather than ordering military strikes first and then informing Congress, as required under the War Powers Act — the use-of-force proposal will be fully debatable and amendable. Under the War Powers Act, such a resolution would face only limited debate and require a simple majority vote.
Despite a nearly four-hour hearing Tuesday in the Foreign Relations Committee with Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifying on behalf of the proposed Syria operation, Menendez wasn’t sure he’d have united Democratic support on his own committee for the resolution.
“I think based on one or two of the statements I heard, I’m not sure about that,” the New Jersey Democrat told POLITICO after the hearing. “Then again, the question is passing it out of the committee, so we will see. I think we can get there.”
Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) all raised objections to any military effort in Syria during Tuesday’s session and are considered possible “no” votes.
Among Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee, only Corker and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are considered solid “yes” votes.
A classified briefing is scheduled for Wednesday for Foreign Relations Committee members. A vote on the resolution could come after the panel moves back into open sessions.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who also serves on Foreign Relations, said Obama called him Sunday night and discussed Syria for more than 30 minutes. Durbin said he, Reid and other party leaders are asking Democrats to “keep their powder dry” because the original White House draft resolution is “being changed” so they should wait before committing one way or the other.
“I’m not ready to count votes,” Durbin said of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “There are a few — I expect a number of them to have some questions. Let’s see if they feel the same way after the resolution is debated and amended.”
Durbin hasn’t said how he’d vote, but White House officials and other Democrats believe he will support the resolution.
See also –
Kerry’s back door: Kerry says Syria authorization should not preclude ‘boots on the ground’: At the first public hearing in Congress on potential military action in Syria, Kerry said “it would be preferable” not to preclude the use of ground troops to preserve President Barack Obama’s options if there was a potential threat of chemical weapons falling into the hands of extremists.