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.
“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 SchumerDean: Schumer's endorsement 'kiss of death' for Ellison How the candidates for DNC chair stack up ahead of Saturday's vote DNC candidate Harrison drops out, backs Perez for chairman 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 PaulConquering Trump returns to conservative summit Rand Paul rejects label of 'Trump's most loyal stooge' GOP healthcare plans push health savings account expansion 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 McCainDrug importation won't save dollars or lives Dem rep Charlie Crist files for divorce Why the GOP cannot sweep its Milo scandal under the rug 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 ShaheenDem senator asks for 'top to bottom' review of Syria policy A guide to the committees: Senate Mattis on rise in Trump administration MORE (D-N.H.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsSenate advances Trump's Commerce pick Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Senate Dem: Trump will hurt Gorsuch's confirmation by undermining judiciary MORE (D-Del.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyA guide to the committees: Senate GOP loses top Senate contenders How many GOP senators will stand up to megadonor DeVos? Just 2. MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Carl LevinCarl LevinA package proposal for repatriation Silencing of Warren another example of hyperpartisan Senate GOP going nuclear over Gorsuch might destroy filibuster forever MORE (D-Mich.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteLewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire NH governor 'not aware’ of major voter fraud Former NH AG: 'Allegations of voter fraud in NH are baseless' MORE (R-N.H.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerA guide to the committees: Senate Republicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy GOP Congress unnerved by Trump bumps MORE (R-Tenn.) and Robert MenendezRobert MenendezSteve Mnuchin, foreclosure king, now runs your US Treasury Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Senators to Trump: We support additional Iran sanctions 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.