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 SchumerDem to Trump: 'You truly are an evil man' Dem senator: GOP controls all of gov't, so success or failure is on them Trump tweets: We’ll put together a great plan after Obamacare explodes 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 PaulTrump, GOP fumble chance to govern GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Rand Paul takes victory lap on GOP health bill 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 McCainMcCain says he hasn't met with Trump since inauguration Overnight Defense: General warns State Department cuts would hurt military | Bergdahl lawyers appeal Trump motion | Senators demand action after nude photo scandal Senate lawmakers eye hearing next week for Air Force secretary: report 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 ShaheenOvernight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal Senate Dems: We won't help pass additional health bills MORE (D-N.H.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Gorsuch sails on day one, but real test is Tuesday Live coverage: Supreme Court nominee hearings begin MORE (D-Del.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyUnder pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Carl LevinCarl LevinDevin Nunes has jeopardized the oversight role of Congress Ted Cruz wants to destroy the Senate as we know it A package proposal for repatriation MORE (D-Mich.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteFEC commissioner to Trump: Prove voter fraud Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Lewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire MORE (R-N.H.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerGOP senator: I'm ready to work with Trump, Dems on healthcare Senators introduce new Iran sanctions Senators war over Wall Street during hearing for Trump's SEC pick MORE (R-Tenn.) and Robert MenendezRobert MenendezCorruption trial could roil NJ Senate race Steve Mnuchin, foreclosure king, now runs your US Treasury Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order 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.