The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, by a vote of 10-7, approved resolution authorizing a U.S. military response to chemical weapons use in Syria. The resolution goes the the full senate for debate and vote next week.
Republicans Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ) and John McCain (AZ) joined seven Democrats in approving the resolution.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined Republicans including Marco Rubio (FL) and Rand Paul (KY) in voting against the resolution. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) voted present.
Sen. McCain had threatened not to vote for the resolution unless it contained stronger language about ousting Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.
“Without the provision for reversing the momentum on the battlefield the conditions are not created for the departure of Bashar al-Assad,” McCain told reporters as he emerged from a classified Senate briefing session. “There is no policy without that and no strategy.”
McCain insists he was promised that such regime change would be made part of US policy by President Obama when he met on Monday at the White House with fellow Republican Lindsey Graham.
“Senator Graham and myself were assured that three things would happen as a result as a result of the US reaction to Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” said McCain. “First, to degrade his capabilities to deliver those weapons. Second, to increase our support to the Free Syrian Army and resistance forces. And third, to change the battlefield momentum which presently is in favour of Bashar Assad and reverse it, which would then create conditions for a negotiated settlement and the departure of Bashar Assad.”
The resolution that was passed with two amendments proposed by Sen. McCain and sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)that contain controversial language making the goal of U.S. military intervention is to “change the moment on the battlefield in Syria.” Both amendments were passed with a voice vote.
The amendments point to degrading the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capability and the arming of Syrian opposition as means of reversing the situation on the ground in Syria, where the Assad regime is generally considered to be winning.
The language appears to address McCain’s concerns about the resolution that he voiced Wednesday morning when he said he would not support the resolution as it was then written. McCain has consistently said he supports further U.S. intervention in Syria to topple Assad.
The White House has repeatedly said that the military action was not aimed at regime change. The game now changes. While the resolution may pass in the Senate, it faces stiffer opposition in the House.
Jane Hamsher at FDL Action has the whip count for the vote which should take place early next week.
Firm Yea: 25
Lean Yea: 30
Lean Nay: 97
Firm Nay: 48