Ed Markey voted ‘present’ on the Syria resolution. Why?

There are 18 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ten of them voted Wednesday  in support of President Obama's use of force resolution against Syria. Seven of them voted against it. And then there was newly elected Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)

Markey voted "present," which, if you are wondering, is neither "yes" nor "no." That "vote" led to a lot of head-scratching from political observers in the aftermath of the committee vote.

Here's how Markey explained himself in a statement released late this afternoon:

“The use of chemical weapons is a heinous and despicable act that is outside the bounds of civilized conduct.

“I participated in today’s committee consideration of the resolution and yesterday’s hearing as well as various classified intelligence briefings held since the President announced on Saturday that he would seek congressional authorization to strike the Assad regime.

“Before casting such a monumental vote, I need to review all of the relevant classified materials relating to this matter before I make a decision as important as authorizing the use of military force. The people of Massachusetts expect their representatives to have analyzed all of the facts prior to making a decision of this magnitude.

“I am concerned about the unintended consequences of a U.S. military attack on Syria and the potential that such a strike could lead, over time, to the entanglement of our brave service men and women in an intractable Syrian civil war.

“The resolution as currently drafted contains language that could be interpreted as expanding the scope of the U.S. military action beyond merely the degradation and deterrence of Assad’s chemical weapons capability.

“The current version of the resolution goes beyond the President’s objective of responding to the use of chemical weapons to call for a broader U.S. political and military strategy in Syria that includes expanded support for various opposition groups, efforts to limit support for the Syrian regime from the Government of Iran and activities to isolate terrorist groups in Syria.

"Although some of these may be desirable objectives, as written they could result in deeper U.S. military involvement in a country inflamed by sectarian violence.

"In the days to come, I will further examine the classified intelligence information and consult with experts before deciding how I will vote on the final resolution when it is considered on the Senate floor.”

Markey's "present" vote, of course, doesn't hold a candle to then-Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) voting "not proven" on the impeachment of Bill Clinton -- citing, wait for it, Scottish law.

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