Pryor deals blow to Obama, opposes military action in Syria

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said Saturday that he is opposed to military action on Syria, dealing a blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to win congressional approval for strikes.

Pryor said in a statement that the Obama administration’s presentations and testimony over the past week had not proven to him there was a compelling case for using military force.

“Before any military action in Syria is taken, the administration must prove a compelling national security interest, clearly define a mission that has a definitive end-state and then build a true coalition of allies that would actively participate in any action we take,” Pryor said in a statement.

“Based on the information presented to me and the evidence I have gathered, I do not believe these criteria have been met, and I cannot support military action against Syria at this time,” he said.

Pryor is the fifth Senate Democrat to come out against military action in Syria, joining Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

Pryor’s opposition increases the challenge that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the White House’s face to secure enough support for military strikes. 

The Senate is expected to vote on the resolution on Wednesday, after it passed Senate Foreign Relations Committee 10-7 this past week, in a vote that had senators in both parties on both sides.

Pryor is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2014, and a vote on Syrian military action could prove to be a divisive issue in that race.

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Pryor’s likely Republican challenger, has been part of a small group of House Republicans who are supporting military action.

Cotton, a House freshman, penned an op-ed with Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) this week arguing that “core U.S. national security interests are implicated in Syria, more so than ever by [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s use of chemical weapons.”

Public opinion has sided against taking military action, and constituent calls to congressional offices have been overwhelmingly opposed strikes, lawmakers say. Pryor noted in his statement he had heard "the concerns of thousands of Arkansans as I have traveled the state."