President Obama suggested to Senate Democrats during a Tuesday lunch that they delay any vote on a resolution related to Syria while renewed diplomacy was taking shape, Senate Democratic aides told TPM.
Obama didn’t issue a strict command not to take a vote — though some took it that way — but it seems the message was clear.
“He asked us to give the diplomatic process time to develop,” one aide said. “He left vote timing up to Senate leaders.”The news comes on the same day that the Syrian government said it was open to a diplomatic solution to the crisis and a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled his plan for a Wednesday test vote on the authorization for military force passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.
Obama had suggested a delay in the Senate in interviews Monday night.
“I don’t anticipate that you would see a succession of votes this week or anytime in the immediate future,” Obama said
A White House official told TPM that the president would continue working with Congress on authorizing language.
“Doing so will further strengthen our diplomatic efforts,” the official said.
The White House and supportive senators have argued that the threat of imminent military action was what brought Syria (and Russia, which first publicly proposed to broker the deal) to the negotiating table.
But there is a general consensus on Capitol Hill that Syria’s apparent concession has softened the pressure for the Senate to act. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who has been involved in drafting the new language, told reporters that a vote was not going to happen this week.
Work is still underway on a legislative answer to recent developments, though.
A group of eight senators met for 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon in Sen. John McCain’s office to work on new language reflecting the new diplomatic reality. After the meeting, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that it was “still a work in progress.” Sen. Chuck Schumer, another member of the group, told reporters that the White House is being consulted during the drafting process.
New language to accommodate recent diplomatic developments with Syria would be an amendment to the resolution passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, not a new resolution, multiple aides for senators involved in the drafting confirmed to TPM.
According to multiple reports, the new language would require the United Nations to pass a resolution stating that the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack was conducted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and to send a team of investigators to remove the weapons from the country.
Menendez had earlier suggested that replacing the committee resolution with an amendment on the Senate floor was an option, and aides have now confirmed that is the operating plan.