In an emotional plea in favor of a U.S. strike against Syria, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday called for lawmakers to support military action and scheduled the first vote on an authorization resolution for Wednesday — Sept. 11.
“The evidence of the Assad regime ... using outlawed nerve agents against its own citizens is clear and very convincing,” the Nevada Democrat said from the Senate floor.
The procedural vote on the Syria resolution will notably occur on the twelfth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, when more than 3,000 people were killed in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania by Islamic extremists on Sept. 11, 2001. Should it pass, the Senate will likely proceed to a final vote later in the week.
Reid, who declared his support for President Barack Obama’s call for a military strike in August, said he watched video on Monday morning showing the aftermath of the alleged chemical attack in Syria that the administration says justifies the use of force.
“I will never get that out of my mind,” he said. “Boys and girls, some who look like teenagers, retching and spazzing their arms. …These poisons kill the kids first. Their little bodies can’t take this.”
The videos are part of a campaign led by the Obama administration to convince the American public and lawmakers to support U.S. action. On Monday night, Obama is scheduled to appear on several television news programs, and he will deliver a national address from the White House on Tuesday. Meanwhile, surrogates and top-level aides continue to brief members of Congress about the ongoing situation in the region.
In his nearly 20-minute address on the Senate floor, Reid argued that it was the nation’s duty to act, and he invoked the tragedy of the Holocaust and quoted from Dante’s Inferno to help make his case.
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality,” Reid said, adding later: “In World War II, six million Jews and tens of thousands of Gypsies, disabled people, gay people and political dissidents were murdered. Never again? Now we’re faced with that choice again.”
The resolution faces significant opposition from lawmakers in both chambers of Congress who remain unconvinced that the United States should get involved militarily in Syria’s two-year civil war.