Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday removed from immediate consideration a proposed resolution authorizing military force against Syria in response to a request from President Barack Obama.
The move will provide U.S. officials time to negotiate a diplomatic solution with the war-torn nation.
“We’ve agreed on a way forward based on the president's speech last night,” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said on the Senate floor. “The president has asked Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force in Syria and pursue a diplomatic solution to see if that works.”
Just days after Obama called on lawmakers to support a resolution approving a “limited” strike on the Syrian government over the alleged use of chemical weapons, the president visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday and urged them to delay a vote. He cited the possibility of a pending deal with the Russian government that would require Syria to turn over its chemical arsenal and join a pact against using such weapons in the future.
Reid had originally said he planned to schedule a procedural vote on the resolution Wednesday, but he declined to file cloture on the bill Monday, an almost sure indication that the vote would be delayed.
In the meantime, administration officials and diplomats have scheduled meetings with foreign leaders to discuss a possible diplomatic deal with Syria, although the president and many top lawmakers remain skeptical. In postponing the resolution, however, Reid said he would reserve the right to call the Senate to the floor for a vote should the talks fall through or appear not to be serious.
“Congress will be watching these negotiations very closely,” Reid, one of the most passionate defenders of Obama’s call for a military strike, said. “If there is any indication they're not serious or they're being used as a ploy to delay, then Congress stands ready to return to that Syria resolution to give the president the authority to hold the Assad regime accountable for the pain, suffering and death that he caused with those chemical weapons.”
At the White House Wednesday, Obama spokesman Jay Carney would not provide a specific timetable for the talks, but said it will “take some time.”