By Jeremy Herb
“I think it’s very positive,” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Republicans who have come out against military strikes also were on board.
“Some of us feel this is the right way to go,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). “I feel we have not exhausted all the diplomatic solutions. I don’t believe the Russians for one second but it’s better than lobbing a few Tomahawk missiles and calling it a day.”
Russia’s proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control shifted the debate in Congress that had been focused on a military strike, as President Obama said Monday it was “possible” the diplomatic gesture could avert a strike.
“It's possible if it's real," Obama told CNN in one of six network interviews he taped on Monday.
It could also prevent lawmakers from taking a highly anticipated — and scrutinized — vote on military action in Syria.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called for a delay on any votes for military strikes due to the Russian proposal as he left Monday's briefing — shortly after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that he was pushing back a Syria vote scheduled for Wednesday.
“There really is no reason to have a vote until after that’s fully explored, if the administration is in fact exploring it,” Issa said.
GOP hawks who have advocated for military action, however, said that the Russian offer was reason to increase the pressure on Syria.
“Today’s development should make members of Congress more willing to vote yes,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement. “This will give the president additional leverage to press Russia and Syria to make good on their proposal to take the weapons of mass destruction out of Assad’s hands.”
McCain and Graham also expressed skepticism toward the Russian offer, which many lawmakers echoed.
“It's not real at this point,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services panel. “It's been offered. We haven't heard Syria's response. There's so much more to learn about it.
“If Syria were to give up all of their chemical weapons, I mean, that would be the best possible result. But at this point, we can't really count on it until we know more about the proposal and how Syria's going to respond to it,” he said.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a liberal who is in favor of military action in Syria, said that the Russian offer was a positive development so long as it didn’t lead to delays from Syria.
“Absolutely we should be talking about trying to do that,” Ellison said. “But what we can’t do is let this be a foot dragging exercise.”