Politics ⋅ Live Blog

The House’s Syria hearing: Live updates

Resize Text
Print Article

A day after testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, President Obama’s top national security aides likely face a tougher examination of the administration’s plans for military intervention in Syria from House Republicans and skeptical Democrats.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey are again set to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Stay tuned below for the latest updates.


Live blog is shutting down

Our live blog coverage is coming to an end today, as the last few members ask their questions.

But feel free to stick around and review what’s happened so far as you watch the rest of the hearing.

Senate panel passes resolution

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed its use of force resolution out of committee, by a vote of 10-7.

Here’s the recap, from Ed O’Keefe:

Senate committee expected to vote soon

Across the Capitol, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote momentarily on its use of force resolution.

Dempsey: Russia not a 'conventional' superpower

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that he does not consider Russia to be a superpower, but that it does have some capabilities of a superpower.

“Russia still possesses elements that would qualify them to join the club of superpowers,” Dempsey said. “They still have an incredible strategic arsenal. But conventionally, I wouldn’t put them in that class.”

Dempsey’s comments came in response to questions from Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), who asked whether Russia might retaliate if the United States attacked Syria.

There has been disagreement about whether Russia has risen to superpower status following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for one, has said Russia is a superpower, as has former Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev.

Rand Paul says filibuster not planned

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has said he might filibuster the Syria use of force resolution, clarified Wednesday that he doesn’t plan to — at least at this point.

From Ed O’Keefe:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Wednesday he has no plans to filibuster a resolution authorizing U.S. military force in Syria.

“That would be a misinterpretation from the media,” Paul said in response to an inquiry by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee debate on a new version of a resolution authorizing force.

News reports earlier Wednesday citing Paul aides said the senator was planning to filibuster the resolution. That would require the resolution’s supporters to amass at least 60 senators to vote to override a filibuster. Senate Democratic aides have said for days that they always expected the need to have at least 60 votes in support of the measure, assuming that some senator would at some point attempt to filibuster the resolution.

Majority of GOP panel members are freshmen

As the House Foreign Relations Committee weighs a use of force resolution, it’s worth noting that a majority of the House GOP contingent is freshmen — 13 of 25, in fact.

The reason that’s important: Freshmen and second-term members have proven to be very independent of party leaders and willing to vote against them. So despite House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) support for the use of force, that doesn’t mean it will pass out of committee.

Is Assad likely to hit back?

Rep. Alan Grayson.(D-Fla.), a long-time critic of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, asked Dempsey whether he believed “a counter-attack is more likely than not?”

“No, I don’t think I can say that without signaling to the Syrian regime in some way. I wouldn’t say that, I wouldn’t come to that conclusion,” he replied.

Dempsey said that U.S. ships are out-of-reach of Syrian missiles but noted that embassies “are always subject to terrorist attack” and that Israel had moved to a state of high alert in anticipation of a military response by President Assad.

Asked if air strikes would require supplemental funds, Hagel said it would depend on the military option chosen.

Duncan: 'Credibility issue' over Benghazi

Following Rep. Joe Wilson’s comments earlier, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) became the second congressman to bring up the death of four Americans in Benghazi last year.

He said President Obama had a “credibility issue” due to unanswered questions about the incident.

Responding angrily, Kerry reminded Duncan that he had volunteered to fight for the U.S. in Vietnam and said the debate was “not about getting into Syria’s civil war.”

“We don’t deserve to drift this into yet another Benghazi discussion,” he said, as Duncan held up a photograph of a Navy SEAL who died in the Benghazi attack.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) then held up a photograph of Syrian children as he read out details of the symptoms of a Sarin gas attack.

Secretary of State John Kerry said at a House Foreign Affairs committee hearing Wednesday that the likelihood of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to use chemical weapons again is "probably 100 percent" if the U.S. does not intervene.

The cost of U.S. air strikes

Towards the end of his testy exchange with Rep. Tom Marino (R.-Pa.), the defense secretary was asked about the cost of U.S. air strikes.

Marino asked: “Who is going to pay for this and what is it going to cost United States taxpayers?”

Hagel replied that “it would be in the tens of millions of dollars, that kind of range.”

Hagel: 'Not my business to trust' Syrian opposition

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel engaged in an intense exchange with Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), during which Hagel said it’s “not my business” to trust the Syrian opposition.

Here’s the transcript:

MARINO: Do you explicitly trust these people?

HAGEL: Well, that’s not my business to trust anybody.

MARINO: Well, certainly it has to be the business, because you’re making decisions to go into war and put American lives at risk, so it’s a simple concept. You either trust or do not trust. And if you do not trust, we don’t call these people our allies or support [them].

HAGEL: Congressman, every nation, every individual, every group responds in their own self-interest. We’re not unaware of all the different groups’ self-interests. Our allies…

MARINO: Excuse me, sir, with all due respect, I think we are aware, if we look back at what happened in Libya, if we look back at what happened in the Middle East in the past, if we look at the Muslim Brotherhood, if we look at al Qaeda. We have to take this into consideration. Obviously we do not know yet who are the good guys.

HAGEL: Congressman, let me respond to that. The focus is not on good guys/bad guys. The focus is on a narrowly drafted resolution asking authorization from the Congress.

Dempsey: Assad could fire rockets at neighbors

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey. (AFP Photo/Getty Images/Jim Watson)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey. (AFP Photo/Getty Images/Jim Watson)

At the prompting of Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Gen. Martin Dempsey laid out some possible ways in which President Assad could retaliate to a U.S. air strike.

He said the Syrian leader might use “long-range rockets to attack his neighbors or some of our facilities,” could “encourage Lebanese Hezbollah to attack an embassy,” or launch a cyber-attack.

“We are alert to all of the possibilities and our mitigating strategy’s in the way we’ve positioned ourselves in the region,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman said.

Dempsey: 'Impossible' to eliminate chemical weapons

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said any military action would not be able to get rid of all of Syria’s chemical weapons.

“This is not about eliminating chemical weapons; that’s impossible,” Dempsey said, citing the “number and the distribution” of weapons.

Dempsey said the military action would be more about sending a message that future use of chemical weapons won’t be allowed. He added that the U.S. and regional allies are “postured for retaliation” from Assad if the air strikes are carried out.

Wilson: Obama trying to distract from Benghazi, IRS

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) has used the hearing to allege that the current focus on Syria is a deliberate tactic by the Obama administration to distract attention from the Benghazi, IRS and NSA “scandals” as well as the “White House-drafted sequestration” and the forthcoming debt ceiling vote.

He asked why the president hadn’t sought authorization for military force after a smaller-scale use of chemical weapons last spring. Kerry replied that he “didn’t believe it was a compelling enough case to win the support of the American people.”

Earlier, Hagel told the panel that the Defense Department had considered all possible effects of launching an air strike including the “security of our forces, security of our embassies, consulates [and] collateral damage, innocent people being hurt.”

Asked by Wilson where the Assad regime had obtained chemical weapons from, Hagel added: “The Russians supply them, others are supplying them with chemical weapons, they make some themselves.”

Kerry compares Syria to Nazi Germany in 1938

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday likened the situation in Syria to the Munich Agreement of 1938, in which countries sought to appease Nazi Germany and paid a price for it.

Kerry said members who are merely voting against the resolution to keep their jobs are doing their country a disservice and will pay a price in the annals of history.

“We will have said to [Assad]: Nobody cares, gas your people, you do what you need to to stay in office, and we’re backing off,” Kerry said.

“That would be one of those moments that will live in infamy — and there are some of those moments,” he added. “Munich, a ship off the coast of Florida that we sent back, filled with Jews, who then lost their lives to gas because we didn’t receive them. There are moments where you have to make a decision, and I think this is one of those moments.

The Munich Agreement effectively allowed Nazi Germany to annex the “Sudetenland” from Czechoslovakia after it had already taken over Austria.

A descent into war?

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies at the House hearing about Syria. (Reuters/Jason Reed)

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies at the House hearing about Syria. (Reuters/Jason Reed)

One of the main concerns for those who have reservations about voting to approve the use of military force in Syria is that targeted air strikes will quickly spiral into a drawn-out, long-lasting ground war.

Responding to questions from Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), General Martin Dempsey admitted that the risk of escalation can never be ruled out altogether.

“I think it’s the focus and the purpose of the military action that will give us the best chance of limiting it in time and commitment,” he said.

“That’s not to say I discount the risk of escalation, which I can never discount, but we’ve mitigated it as much as possible.”

Ros-Lehtinen suggests House may not vote

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) asked the witnesses to respond to a rumor that the House would not, in fact, vote on a use of force resolution.

Secretary of State John Kerry said he wouldn’t comment and dismissed it as a rumor. He said it was the first he had heard of it.

Kerry: Arab countries offered to pay for invasion

Secretary of State John Kerry said at Wednesday’s hearing that Arab counties have offered to pay for the entirety of unseating President Bashar al-Assad if the United States took the lead militarily.

“With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes,” Kerry said. “They have. That offer is on the table.”

Asked by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) about how much those countries would contribute, Kerry said they have offered to pay for all of a full invasion.

“In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost,” Kerry said. “That’s how dedicated they are at this. That’s not in the cards, and nobody’s talking about it, but they’re talking in serious ways about getting this done.

Read more:

Where the votes stand on Syria
11 questions Congress faces on Syria
Poll: Most in U.S. oppose Syria strike

At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. Congress must send a message to Iran, and North Korea on Syria, because, "they're all listening for our silence."

Video: Syria violence continues

Raw video from AP shows continuing violence on the outskirts of Damascus on Wednesday:

Load More
No More Posts
Most Read
Liveblog Comments