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 SchumerFreedom Caucus, Trump reach 'agreement in principle' on ObamaCare repeal bill Gorsuch hearings: A referendum on Originalism and corporate power We must act now and pass the American Health Care Act 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 PaulGOP rep: Trump could be 'one-term president' if healthcare bill passes Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief urges Congress to approve budget boost | Senate fight over NATO addition Defying Trump, Freedom Caucus insists it'll oppose GOP ObamaCare replacement 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 calls North Korean leader a 'crazy, fat kid' McCain: Congress doesn't have 'credibility' to handle Russia probes Dem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info 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: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate Lawmakers want Trump commitment to help Iraq post-ISIS Overnight Defense: FBI chief confirms Trump campaign, Russia probe | Senators push for Afghan visas | Problems persist at veterans' suicide hotline MORE (D-N.H.), Chris CoonsChris CoonsGorsuch sails on day one, but real test is Tuesday Live coverage: Supreme Court nominee hearings begin Senate Dems introduce bill to rescind Trump border wall, immigration order MORE (D-Del.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyRNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight Red-state Dems in Supreme Court pressure cooker Dems launch attacks ahead of Supreme Court showdown MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Carl LevinCarl LevinTed Cruz wants to destroy the Senate as we know it A package proposal for repatriation Silencing of Warren another example of hyperpartisan Senate 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 CorkerRand Paul roils the Senate with NATO blockade Lawmakers want Trump commitment to help Iraq post-ISIS Trump needs a united front to win overseas MORE (R-Tenn.) and Robert MenendezRobert MenendezSteve Mnuchin, foreclosure king, now runs your US Treasury Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Senators to Trump: We support additional Iran sanctions 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.