By Jonathan Easley - 09/03/13 11:54 AM EDT
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that he wasn’t a lock to vote in favor of intervening in Syria because he feared the U.S. military strike wouldn’t go far enough.
McCain, who is among the most vocal members of Congress supporting regime change in Syria, said he won't be sure if he is a “yes” vote on a potential strike until he reviewed the plans to make sure they were forceful enough.
The statement ramps up rhetoric McCain used a day earlier, after he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) met with President Obama at the White House.
“I'm already talking to a lot of my colleagues, but before I persuade them to support this, I have to be persuaded,” he said, adding that “a weak response is almost as bad as nothing.”
McCain’s latest demand puts President Obama in a tough spot, as some members of Congress – including senior Democrats such as Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) -- have said they will only support a limited strike in Syria.
McCain and Graham are the lynchpin Congressional votes Obama will need to gain congressional authorization for a response to the Assad regime's apparent use of chemical weapons last month.
In a joint press conference after the two left their White House meeting on Monday, the Republican foreign policy hawks appeared encouraged by the administration’s plan to degrade the Assad regime’s military capabilities while boosting the weaponry of the rebel forces.
They also hinted that the administration might be working on a more expansive plan than the two-day bombing campaign it had reportedly been considering. McCain said he did not think “it was an accident” that an American aircraft carrier group had been rerouted to the Red Sea.
It’s a critical week on Capitol Hill for the U.S.’s future in Syria, as the White House is running what it calls a “flood the zone” offensive to win over lawmakers to support the strike.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. The two will joined by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in a series of classified meetings with lawmakers throughout the week.
Also on Tuesday, Obama will meet with the chairs and ranking members from the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs Committee, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House Armed Services Committee at the White House.