Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Breaking: Bipartisan senators drafting alternative resolution on Syria

NYTIMES: WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of eight senators joined the international diplomatic momentum on Tuesday to avert an American military attack on Syria over its use of chemical munitions in that country’s civil war, responding positively to a Russian proposal aimed at securing and destroying those weapons.

The group of senators, including some of President Obama’s biggest supporters and critics, were drafting an alternative Congressional resolution that would give the United Nations time to take control of the Syrian government’s arsenal of the internationally banned weapons.

If the alternative resolution gained political traction, it could stave off a Congressional vote — and possibly a debilitating defeat for the Obama administration — in the coming days on a more immediate resolution authorizing the use of force, which a majority of Americans appear to oppose. That resolution, approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, had been losing ground in both parties in recent days. Passage appeared increasingly difficult in the House and possibly the Senate as well.

The alternative resolution is far from complete, but a Senate aide familiar with the talks said the negotiations are being conducted in consultation with the White House. It would require the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution condemning the use of chemical weapons by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and would set a deadline for establishing United Nations control of the arsenal. If that deadline is not met, the resolution would authorize the use of military force.

The alternative resolution was likely to be presented to Democratic and Republican senators at meetings later in the day with President Obama, who was still planning to address the nation on Tuesday evening about what he has called the need for military force in response to the use of deadly chemical weapons last month in the Syrian civil war.

The bipartisan group drafting the measure includes Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Chris Coons of Delaware. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is in consultations.

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