Congress slams brakes on Syria bills

Congress slammed the brakes Tuesday on all legislation authorizing military action against Syria, quashing the possibility of a vote this week that could have handed President Obama a major defeat.

The day began with a bipartisan group of senators working on a new resolution authorizing military action that took into account offers from Russia and Syria to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control.

It ended with members agreeing that votes on any Syria resolutions were on hold.

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“I’m not guaranteeing anything,” Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe DC bubble is strangling the DNC Dems want Sessions to recuse himself from Trump-Russia probe Ryan says Trump, GOP 'in complete sync' on ObamaCare MORE (D-Nev.) said after his conference met with Obama, who asked members to hold up on any votes on Syria.

“I do know this. Our schedule’s being driven by developments that are taking place, not by some artificial timeline that we have here,” he said. “It’s important we do this well, not quickly.”

Charles SchumerCharles SchumerThe Hill's 12:30 Report Why Democrats fear a successful inaugural address from Trump CBO: 18 million could lose coverage after ObamaCare repeal MORE (N.Y.), the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, said the upper chamber would look to see how things played out at the United Nations over the next few days.

“There’s a universal view in the caucus and the country it would be a lot better to get this done by international consensus and action than unilateral action,” he said.

Obama met with Senate Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday in separate meetings and left both believing there would be no vote soon on Syria in the Senate.

“I think it’s 50-50 or less that we never vote on a resolution,” Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulDems blast Trump plans for deep spending cuts Trump team prepares dramatic cuts Paul, Lee call on Trump to work with Congress on foreign policy MORE (R-Ky.) said after meeting with Obama. 

The dramatic turn of events had allies of Obama breathing a sign of relief.

Leaders had worried that a resolution authorizing force in Syria, which Senate leaders have worked on intensely over the last week, might not pass the Senate and was doomed for defeat in the House.

Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), a senior Republican who is close to the leadership, said Tuesday he did not believe any Syria resolution would come to the floor at all.

“I’d be shocked,” he told The Hill. “If we do, it’s going to go down in flames. I don’t think it would be a good thing for the president, and I don’t think it’s good for the country.”

Democratic aides agreed there is reluctance to make another push for authorizing strikes because it could harm negotiations among Russia, France and Syria if Congress rejects military intervention.

Earlier Tuesday, the Capitol buzzed with talk that a bipartisan group of senators led by Schumer and John McCainJohn McCainTillerson met with top State official: report McCain ‘very concerned’ about Tillerson US democracy is in crisis. Trump voters must help us get past it. MORE (R-Ariz.) was working on an alternative resolution authorizing force against Syria.

Schumer, McCain and seven other senators from both parties put together the broad outlines of a resolution that would authorize strikes in the absence of international action.

The blueprint called for the United Nations to blame the Syrian government for a chemical attack that U.S. officials say killed 1,400 people and to remove all chemical weapons from the war-wracked nation.

Schumer and McCain met in McCain’s Russell Building office with Sens. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenTrump poised to reinstate 'global gag rule' on Roe v. Wade anniversary: report Trump country Dem takes risk by skipping swearing-in 5 billion reasons Rex Tillerson is wrong MORE (D-N.H.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsTrump, Democrats can bridge divide to make college more affordable Senate Dems urge Sessions to abstain from voting on Trump’s Cabinet picks Booker to vote against Tillerson MORE (D-Del.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyLive coverage: Senators grill Trump's Treasury pick Live coverage: Tom Price's confirmation hearing Senate Democrats brace for Trump era MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Carl LevinCarl LevinObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers 'Nuclear option' for Supreme Court nominees will damage Senate McCain's Supreme Court strategy leads to nuclear Senate MORE (D-Mich.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteTen rumored Trump Cabinet picks who didn't get a job Sasse, Perdue join Armed Services Committee Avid pilot among GOP senators joining Transportation committee MORE (R-N.H.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerHaley ready for UN role despite dearth of foreign policy experience Top Dem: Don’t bring Tillerson floor vote if he doesn’t pass committee Trump’s UN pick threads needle on Russia, NATO MORE (R-Tenn.) and Robert MenendezRobert MenendezCarson likely to roll back housing equality rule Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State Booker to join Foreign Relations Committee MORE (D-N.J.) Tuesday afternoon to discuss potential amendments to the use-of-force resolution passed last week by the Foreign Relations panel.

Separately, Shaheen announced she planned to introduce a resolution authorizing force if Syria did not take credible and concrete steps toward relinquishing its chemical weapons arsenal.

By Tuesday afternoon, however, there appeared little appetite to vote on any amended use-of-force resolution.

Reid told the ad-hoc negotiators that they must funnel their effort through the Foreign Relations Committee, where Menendez has been involved in the discussion.

Some Democratic aides dismissed the push for a new resolution as having modest prospects for reaching the floor.

Another Democratic aide said “the center of gravity has shifted away from Congress.”

Russell Berman and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.