By Alexander Bolton - 09/11/13 01:41 AM EDT
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 SchumerElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal 78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto 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 PaulHow low is the bar for presidential candidates, anyway? Lawmaker seeks to investigate Obama's foreign tax compliance law Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears 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 McCainGOP lawmakers slam secret agreement to help lift Iran bank sanctions Kerry: US 'on the verge' of suspending talks with Russia on Syria Trump, Clinton to headline Al Smith dinner 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 ShaheenSenators press State Department on 'plan B' in Syria Senate passes bill to preserve sexual assault kits Dems call for better birth control access for female troops MORE (D-N.H.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Healthcare: McConnell unveils new Zika package | Manchin defends daughter on EpiPens | Bill includes M for opioid crisis Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (D-Del.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyOvernight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform No GOP leaders attending Shimon Peres funeral Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Carl LevinCarl LevinThe Fed and a return to banking simplicity What Our presidential candidates can learn from Elmo Zumwalt Will there be a 50-50 Senate next year? MORE (D-Mich.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteGOP senator: Block cash payments to state terror sponsors The Trail 2016: Just a little kick Abortion rights group ads tie vulnerable GOP senators to Trump MORE (R-N.H.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerSyrian carnage likely to outlast Obama Overnight Defense: GOP leaders express concerns after 9/11 veto override | Lawmakers press for Syria 'plan B' | US touts anti-ISIS airstrikes Dem leaders defend overriding 9/11 bill veto MORE (R-Tenn.) and Robert MenendezRobert MenendezDemocrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Dem senator: Louisiana Republican 'found Jesus' on flood funding Taiwan and ICAO: this is the time 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.