Any use of the United States military against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad may now come later than previously expected. Some US lawmakers who support a strike on Syria are taken aback by the wording of a new draft that would authorize military force.
Among those who are now concerned with moving forward is Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), the long-time lawmaker who has passionately pleaded with the White House to aid rebel fighters opposed to the Syrian government since long before US President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve a military strike.
Sen. McCain, 77, has been among the most adamant anti-Assad crusaders in Washington for years, and in recent days he has advocated strongly for moving forward with Obama’s plans to reprimand the Syrian leader over his alleged use of chemical weapons last month outside of Damascus. McCain is — for the moment — resisting any plan to punish Assad immediately, however, after colleagues in the Senate drafted a new bill this week which alters the terms with which the US would conduct an operation overseas.
The new draft, written by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and unveiled on Tuesday, would mandate that any military action taken against Assad would limit US involvement to 90 days and forbid any American boots on the ground. Additionally, the Obama administration would have to submit a strategy for "achieving a political settlement" in Syria.
Asked by the Associated Press if he approved of the draft, McCain said Wednesday, “In its current form, I do not.”
According to Fox News, the former Republican Party nominee for president told reporters after Tuesday’s hearing that "There are a number of people who are unhappy” with Sens. Menendez and Corker’s offering.
"There's no reference to changing the momentum on the battlefield, there's no reference to arming the Free Syrian Army," McCain told NBC News.
McCain has made multiple trips to the Middle East to meet with opposition fighters attempting to remove Assad’s regime from control, and has long advocated for assisting them with US weapons. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Wednesday, however, 70 percent of the Americans surveyed said they opposed any effort by the US or its allies to supply those rebels with any arsenal.
Should McCain’s sentiment about the new resolution spread among colleagues, a vote to authorize the use of military force against Assad could be delayed, if not denied. Reuters reported that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may now delay a vote expected for Wednesday in order to bring back onboard the lawmakers who, like McCain, oppose the wording of the Menendez-Corker resolution. Additionally, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) warned Fox that the resolution will likely lead to a delay in moving forward, but by Wednesday afternoon Reuters was reporting that a vote by the committee was likely to occur before Thursday,
McCain’s latest take on the Syrian solution comes just days after he said that voting against Pres. Obama’s resolution “would be catastrophic because it would undermine the credibility of the United States and of the president.”
The news also comes at a time when the crosshairs from Republicans and Democrats are set on McCain after his conduct during Tuesday’s Senate hearing on a possible strike raised eyebrows on both sides of the aisle. During the three-hour-plus hearing, Sen. McCain was caught on camera playing a game of poker on his iPhone.
“Well, as much as I like to always listen in rapt attention
constantly with remarks of my colleagues over a three-and-a-half
hour period, occasionally I get a little bored,” McCain told
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer shortly after.
Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing - worst of all I lost!— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) September 3, 2013