Key Senate committee approves Syria attack resolution -- after breaking rules to rush vote

The longer this drags on, the greater the risk that a public backlash will grow and derail passage in Congress. The obvious democratic solution: Fudge the rules a little to ram the resolution through committee ASAP. After Obama was nice enough to consult Congress for once before bombing someone, it’s the least they can do.

No one on either side of the Beltway takes our system of government very seriously anymore, do they?

“This is a rush to war behind closed doors,” one senior GOP senate aide said. “We were told there was a need to have a thoughtful and public debate about how this nation goes to war, but this seems to be about simply getting a resolution done to cover the president.”

According to Senate rules, hearings should be notified seven days in advance, business meetings should be notified at least three days in advance, and members should have 24 hours to consider legislative text before having to vote on it. A spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) pointed out that the chairman and ranking member of the committee have the discretion to call a business meeting earlier if they both agree…

The committee had announced it would debate and vote at 11:30 Wednesday morning on a resolution to authorize Obama to strike Syria. The resolution, the result of a last-minute compromise between Menendez and committee ranking Republican Bob Corker (R-TN), was given to senators the previous evening. Amendments were due at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, before the classified briefing for members with Secretary of State John Kerry and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had ended.

They had to pass the war authorization to know what’s in it. The final vote: 10-7-1 with Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts voting “present,” which would normally qualify as the most humiliating thing a Democrat’s guilty of this week but doesn’t even crack the top five given Obama’s and Kerry’s performances lately. It wasn’t a party-line vote, either:

Voting “yes” on the resolution were Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Chris Coons (Del.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Tim Kaine (Va.); as well as Republicans Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Voting “no” were Democrats Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.); as well as Republicans James Risch (Idaho), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), and big names Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.).

Wait a sec — wasn’t Maverick a “no” on the Senate resolution this morning? Indeed he was, because he was unhappy that the Corker/Menendez resolution — which is already loaded with vaguely worded loopholes that Obama can exploit to launch a more aggressive attack — isn’t quite aggressive enough. His solution was to draft an amendment with Democrat Chris Coons specifying that “it is the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield” and to “upgrad[e] the lethal and non-lethal military capabilities of vetted elements of Syrian opposition forces, including the Free Syrian Army.” In other words, Congress won’t simply be authorizing O to punch Assad in the face for using WMD. They’ll be authorizing him to throw in America’s lot fully on the side of the Syrian rebels until the “momentum” of the war is changed — theoretically a much more ambitious form of intervention. Is it at all relevant, I wonder, that the leadership of the FSA is already in the process of disintegrating? Not to Maverick, and apparently not to a majority of the Foreign Relations Committee either.

As for Rubio’s vote, it’s no surprise, but read the statement he issued after the vote. Key passage, aimed squarely at Rand Paul in order to reassure Rubio’s fans that he’s still a true blue hawk at heart:

“Let me close by recognizing that there is a movement afoot in both parties to disengage the United States from issues throughout the world. It is true, we cannot solve every crisis on the planet. But if we follow the advice of those who seek to disengage us from global issues, in the long run we will pay a terrible price. America is not just another country. It is an exceptional one. The most influential, the most powerful and the most inspirational nation on Earth. We must recognize that the world is a safer place when America is the strongest country in the world. When America doesn’t lead, chaos follows. And eventually, that chaos forces us to deal with these problems in the most expensive and the most dangerous ways imaginable. Just because we ignore global problems doesn’t mean they will ignore us. Instead, they become bigger and harder to solve. And sadly, Syria is just the latest example of that fundamental truth. Had we forcefully engaged in empowering moderate rebels, today we would have more and better options before us. But instead, unfortunately, the President, with the support of some voices in my own party, chose to let others lead instead. And now we are dealing with the consequences of that inaction.”

Exit question via Mark Krikorian:

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