McConnell offers no support for military strike against Syria

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGOP grapples with repeal of popular ObamaCare policy New DNC chairman wastes no time going after Trump Dem 2020 hopefuls lead pack in opposing Trump Cabinet picks MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday did not offer support for a military strike against Syria.

In a stark contrast with GOP leaders in the House, McConnell voiced skepticism about a strike and said Obama needed to explain more to Congress and the public.

ADVERTISEMENT
“While we are learning more about his plans, Congress and our constituents would all benefit from knowing more about what it is he thinks needs to be done — and can be accomplished — in Syria and the region,” McConnell said in a statement after meeting with Obama at the White House.

McConnell is up for reelection in 2014 and is facing a tough Tea Party challenge from the right. 

Fellow Kentucky GOP 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 opposes military intervention in Syria, something that may be weighing on McConnell.

Senate Republicans said the president needs to do a better job explaining his rationale for a military strike in the wake of chemical weapons attacks outside of Damascus.

The GOP skepticism means that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair The Hill's 12:30 Report Hopes rise for law to expand access to experimental drugs MORE (D-Nev.) will have to rely heavily on his own caucus to pass a resolution authorizing force.

This could force him to corral skeptical liberals like Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyDem senator goes on tweet storm over leaked ObamaCare repeal plan A guide to the committees: Senate Senators eye new sanctions against Iran MORE (D-Conn.), who have expressed concern about another military action in the Middle East.

McConnell’s deputy, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynCornyn: Border wall 'makes absolutely no sense' in some areas Ryan on border: ‘We will get this done’ Ryan tours Mexican border on horseback MORE (Texas), also voiced misgivings about a limited strike against the military forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 

 “What the president can do is to make the case to the American people. It’s important that he bring Congress in but he needs to make the case to the American people and that case hasn’t been made yet,” Cornyn told reporters.

Cornyn said a limited military strike might have a counterproductive effect.

“If it is so targeted and so limited it may have the opposite effect than the president intends,” he said. “It may be viewed as so insignificant that it actually emboldens other international bullies.”

Sen. Jim RischJim RischA guide to the committees: Senate Ryan tries to save tax plan Senate GOP votes to silence Warren after speech against Sessions MORE (R-Idaho), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was “extremely reluctant” to authorize a strike on Libya.

But Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerA guide to the committees: Senate Republicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy GOP Congress unnerved by Trump bumps MORE (Tenn.), the top ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations panel, predicted enough Republicans would support an authorization resolution to pass it through the Senate with at least 60 votes.

Corker said Obama needs to make a broader argument for why it is important to support rebel fighters in Syria and why the conflict is important to U.S. national security.

“I have a strong sense that we will be able to come to terms fairly quickly with what an authorization ought to say,” Corker said of his talks with Senate Democratic leaders over an authorization of force resolution.

This story was updated at 1:58 p.m.