As we begin Day 9 of our whip count, the House Armed Services Committee is holding hearings that we’ll be liveblogging, where John Kerry will testify. And members of Congress are coming out of the closet and expressing their opposition to military action in Syria, now that it’s pretty much universally accepted that there will not be a vote.
Senate Whip Count Total on Syria
House Whip Count Total Vote on Syria
Liveblog of Senate Armed Services Committee:
10:06: Chairman Buck McKeon says that if there is military action in Syria there will have to be a supplemental. Says sequestration has been “devastating” to the armed services.
10:10: Ranking Minority Member Adam Smith repeats the canard that Assad has killed “100,000 of his own people.” In fact there have been 100,000 total deaths on both sides.
10:15: John Kerry testifying now. Our chief diplomat: “Nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging.” (“Especially an #UnbelievablySmall hanging” — says one rake on Twitter)
If we don’t act now it will send a message of “weakness” to Iran. If the President cuts a deal, will Congress back him up? Can HE deliver? Says he spoke to Netanyahu yesterday. Israel does not want to be in the middle of this, but there security is definitely at stake, says Kerry.
“President Obama’s first priority is diplomacy,” he says. “No political solution is possible as long as Assad believes he can just gas his way out of this predicament.”
Make no mistake about it — the only reason Russia and Syria are willing to go along with this is the threat of military force that has been on the table for these weeks.
10:30: Chuck Hagel up now. “In order for political solution to work threat of military action must be real.”
10:37: Mitch McConnell comes out against attacking Syria.
10:58: Kerry repeats the falsehood that Assad has killed “100,000 people.”
11:02: Walter Jones said 97% of the phone calls & emails said “no” to military action in Syria. Also had calls from local military base saying “please don’t send me to Syria.”
11:17: Kerry says while he’s sitting here Obama has had conversations with Hollande and Cameron and have agreed to work with Russia and China on chemical weapons disarmament.
11:04: Gen Dempsey – can’t give you specifics but we are positioned to respond to retaliation in the region.
11:13: Randy Forbes (R-VA) says he thinks that if tomahawk missiles were launched at targets in the US we’d probably consider it an act of war, and the Syrian people would likely do the same. So Kerry’s assertion that what they’re proposing isn’t “war” is probably something the Syrian people won’t understand.
11:20: Kerry says Obama had conversations with Francois Holland and David Cameron this morning, who agreed to work with Russia and China on chemical weapons disarmament.
11:23: Rand Paul huddles with bipartisan members of House who oppose Syria intervention, including Alan Grayson (D-FL), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Rick Nolan (D-MN) and Mark Pocan (R-FL).
11:28: Rep. Jeff Miller: Are we going to strike N. Korea, who have larger stockpile of chemical weapons? Kerry: we’re working with the Chinese on that (i.e. the problem of North Korea’s chemical weapons, not a strike).
Rep. Austin Scott: Would you list for us the principles of the doctrine the President uses for determining whether or not to go to war? (Thinks attacking Syria would be a war.)
Kerry says he’ll respond in writing within 24 hours.
12:15: Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) goes from “present” vote in committee vote to opposition to use of military force in Syria. Put out a statement this morning.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-MN) goes from undecided to firm yes on Syria.
1:41: The new resolution being drawn up in the Senate authorizes the use of military force if Assad does not turn over chemical weapons by a specific date. Also calls for a resolution of the UN Security Council condemning Assad for the use of chemical weapons.
2:04: A new backdoor AUMF bill is being drafted by the hawks in the Senate, a new Gang of 8: Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Saxby Chambliss, and Democrats Carl Levin, Charles E. Schumer, and Chris Coons. Menendez is reportedly consulting with them.
2:06: Lunch just broke up between Obama and Democrats on the Hill. Obama wants to maintain a “credible threat” of military strike. They’re talking about “tweaking” current resolution with specific dates for divestment, and the use of military force if it doesn’t happen.
Reid says he knows where the chemical weapons are.
Since Russia just rejected a French draft authorizing US to use military force if deadlines are not met, the bill’s safeguards are designed to fail and give Obama the authorization to use military force he wants by default.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) opposes such a bill.
2:35: Syrian foreign minister says Syria will declare its chemical weapons arsenal, sign chemical weapons convention.
2:55: Bernie Sanders is now on the Senate floor.
4:14: Just interviewed Matthew Hoh, who formally directed the Afghan Study Group. He gave a briefing to Hill staffers today. He says that senior Pentagon officials are coming to him and saying there are serious problems with the intelligence on Syria. That the information being circulated on Syria is not intelligence, it’s a political document created by proponents of war with Syria to justify their cause. The information is incomplete, and has been “massaged” and “manipulated” to achieve a certain objective.
He also said it makes no sense that Assad would do this. He said Assad is still controlling 13 of 14 provinces; he’s not on the ropes. Why would he do the one thing that would invite US intervention on the other side?