From the Associated Press in Washington today ....
President Barack Obama's request for speedy congressional backing of a military strike in Syria advanced in the Senate on Wednesday, hours after the commander in chief left open the possibility he would order retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack even if Congress withheld its approval.
The authorization measure, which cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-7 vote, was altered at the last minute to support "decisive changes to the present military balance of power" in Syria's civil war. It would rule out U.S. combat operations on the ground.
The resolution is expected to reach the Senate floor next week, although the timetable for a vote is uncertain. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky conservative with strong tea party ties, has threatened a filibuster.
The panel's vote marked the first formal response in Congress to the president's unexpected announcement last weekend that he was putting off an expected cruise missile strike against Syria and instead was first asking lawmakers to unite behind such a plan.
Among the lawmakers voting no: Sen. Marco Rubio.
On the jump, Rubio's statement with a video link...
RUBIO: MY VOTE AGAINST MILITARY ACTION IN SYRIA
“What is happening in Syria is a vital national security concern for the United States. I know Syria is far way, and some may wonder why it matters. But it matters for several reasons.
“First, Syria is of vital importance to Iran and to their ambitions to become the foremost power in the region. They use Syria to arm Hezbollah and then to attack Israel. They use it to traffic weapons and terrorists to destabilize Iraq. Second, Assad is a dangerous anti-American dictator. For example, he helped terrorists get into Iraq so they could maim and kill American soldiers. Third, this prolonged conflict is creating vast ungoverned spaces in Syria which are turning into the premier operational area in the world for jihadists to operate. And fourth, if Assad does not face consequences for what he has done, and is doing, it sends a message to other rogue governments like North Korea and Iran that they too can cross red lines without fear.
“That is why those who argue that what happens in Syria is none of our business are wrong. And that is why I have, for over two years, urged the President to pursue a more robust engagement in the hopes of helping the Syrian people replace Assad with a stable, secular and moderate government.
“However, while I have long argued forcefully for engagement in empowering the Syrian people, I have never supported the use of U.S. military force in the conflict. And I still don’t. I remain unconvinced that the use of force proposed here will work. The only thing that will prevent Assad from using chemical weapons in the future is for the Syrian people to remove him from power. The strike the administration wants us to approve I do not believe furthers that goal. And in fact, I believe U.S. military action of the type contemplated here might prove to be counterproductive.
“After a few days of missile strikes, it will allow Assad, for example, to emerge and claim that he took on the United States, and survived. And by the way, I also think this action could unleash a series of events that could further destabilize the region. This idea that a military response is the only way to respond to what is happening in Syria is just not true. Instead our response should have always have been, and should still be, a multifaceted plan to help the Syrian people can get rid of Assad and replace him with a secular and moderate government they deserve. And I believe this committee, by a vote of 15 to 3 has already put forth a plan that accomplishes that, the Syrian Transition Support Act.
“First, we should openly provide lethal support and increase non-lethal support to carefully and properly vetted elements of the opposition. By the way, we should only do this if we are able to identify rebel groups that will not transfer those weapons to Al Qaeda or other jihadist groups. Second, we would pursue severe sanctions against individuals and financial institutions that have provided or facilitated the sale or transfer of weapons, petroleum and/or petroleum products to Assad. Third, we should create a transition fund that will assist with a transition to a moderate transitional government in Syria in the aftermath of Assad’s fall. And fourth, we should increase humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and to the countries that are hosting Syrian refugees.
“Let me close by recognizing that there is a movement afoot in both parties to disengage the United States from issues throughout the world. It is true, we cannot solve every crisis on the planet. But if we follow the advice of those who seek to disengage us from global issues, in the long run we will pay a terrible price. America is not just another country. It is an exceptional one. The most influential, the most powerful and the most inspirational nation on Earth. We must recognize that the world is a safer place when America is the strongest country in the world. When America doesn’t lead, chaos follows. And eventually, that chaos forces us to deal with these problems in the most expensive and the most dangerous ways imaginable. Just because we ignore global problems doesn’t mean they will ignore us. Instead, they become bigger and harder to solve. And sadly, Syria is just the latest example of that fundamental truth. Had we forcefully engaged in empowering moderate rebels, today we would have more and better options before us. But instead, unfortunately, the President, with the support of some voices in my own party, chose to let others lead instead. And now we are dealing with the consequences of that inaction.”