Analysis: Congress discussing alternatives to vote on Syria

Vote may be delayed until UN releases its chemical weapons report; other proposal gives Assad 45 to cede control of weapons.

U.S. President Obama (rear C) meets with bipartisan Congress (photo credit: Reuters)
U.S. President Obama (rear C) meets with bipartisan Congress
(photo credit: Reuters)
WASHINGTON – Seeking to avoid embarrassing President Barack Obama on the world stage, members of Congress are exploring alternative measures to a vote that would authorize military force in Syria.
If held today, a vote in the House of Representatives would fail overwhelmingly, by most counts. Over 150 members have already declared their opposition, with only two dozen in favor.
Neither is Senate approval assured. And American public opinion is firmly against military intervention, according to recent polls.
While the Senate could take up the resolution this week, a House vote has not been scheduled. Speaker John Boehner (ROhio) has yet to lay out a path for the measure either through a committee or directly to the chamber floor.
A vote may be delayed until the United Nations releases its report on findings of chemical weapons use, sources say. Congress may also adopt a plan proposed by two Democratic senators, Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota) and Joe Manchin (West Virginia), which would give Syrian President Bashar Assad 45 days to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and cede control of his stockpiles to an international monitor.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that a finding of chemical weapons use in Syria by the UN investigations team would justify a “strong response” from the international community. But he also supported the prospect of Assad forfeiting his chemical weapons arsenal, not just to be monitored but ultimately to be destroyed, as is the mandate of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Secretary of State John Kerry, along with other top Obama administration officials, will be on Capitol Hill “throughout the week” in an attempt to whip up support, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Monday.
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Obama stopped by a reception with Senate Republicans on Sunday night and visited with Senate Democrats earlier in the weekend. He will make a rare trip to Capitol Hill to meet with the Democratic caucus on Tuesday, shortly before delivering a national address from the White House.
Debate on the authorization measure began on the floors of both chambers of Congress only on Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is expected to bring the resolution to the floor on Wednesday, but only if he believes enough votes are there to approve it.