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McConnell chides Obama as 'reluctant commander in chief' on Syria

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) came out against using U.S. military force in Syria Tuesday, criticizing the way President Obama has handled the situation. 

“No one should be faulted for being skeptical about this proposal, regardless of what party they’re in, or for being dumfounded at the ham-handed manner in which the White House announced it,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

"There is absolutely no reason to signal to the enemy when and how, and for how long, you plan to strike them — none.

“You don’t send out a save the date card to the enemy.”

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McConnell’s announcement came as new possibilities about a negotiated settlement with Syria seem likely to slow congressional action. On Monday, Russia suggested an agreement under which Syria would give up control of its chemical weapons, and Syria indicated it could agree to this solution. That prompted Obama to acknowledge that this sort of agreement could allow Syria to dodge a U.S. attack.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) delayed filing cloture on a motion to proceed to S.J.Res. 21, which would authorize a limited 60-day strike with the option to extend it an additional 30 days. He said it was prudent for Congress to wait to see how the agreement with Russia played out before taking a vote.

McConnell said Russia’s proposal is “obviously” worth consideration and said Obama’s resolution just “didn’t pass muster.”

McConnell accused Obama of being “a very reluctant commander in chief” and said the president’s “failed” foreign policy has “come with a cost.”

McConnell’s colleague, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has been a leading critic of military intervention in Syria. 

McConnell's "no" vote comes as he faces a conservative primary challenger, Matt Bevin, who has already come out staunchly opposed to military engagement in Syria.

The Senate minority leader has long been viewed as vulnerable to a primary challenger, as conservatives remain unhappy with his votes in favor of the financial bailout, previous debt-ceiling increases and for his refusal to sign on to a conservative-led push to defund ObamaCare.

Bevin had attacked McConnell over his silence on Syria over the past week, charging that it raised questions about his ability to lead.

McConnell admitted that he has not always been an “isolationist” but said military intervention wasn’t justified.

“I have never been an isolationist,” McConnell said. “[But] all interventions are not created equal. And this proposal just does not stand up. So I’ll be voting against this resolution. … There are just too many unanswered questions about our long-term strategy in Syria.”

McConnell said he based his decision on the fact that Obama admitted that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons didn’t pose a direct threat to the U.S. or its allies.