The Associated Press is reporting that President Obama has agreed to United Nations discussions on the Russian proposal for international oversight on Syria’s chemical weapons as a way to avert American strikes.
This scrambles the ongoing situation in any number of ways.
For one thing, it may make Republican lawmakers even less likely to support Obama’s request for authorization for strikes. A GOP aide tells Robert Costa that the Russian proposal could lead to a “swarm” of No’s today and tomorrow from GOP Senators. As Costa explains it, the Russian proposal may mean strikes are less likely, which gives Republicans more of an incentive to come out against them to stick it to Obama, and then support a diplomatic solution later.
(Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell today came out against Obama’s proposal, a startling outcome, given that he has spent the last five years opposing pretty much everything Obama has proposed. Also, as Steve Benen points out, McConnell’s positioning may well be motivated by his own political weakness.)
On the Democratic side, the impact is less clear. Aides suggest it could make some Dems marginally more inclined to support strikes, on the theory that a more credible threat of force later could make a diplomatic solution more likely. “With news that the White House is open to working with the UN, I think this is in furtherance of passing whatever the final resolution is,” one Dem leadership aide tells me.
It’s my understanding that senior Democrats and White House advisers have not yet begun to make such a case internally to wavering lawmakers, though it seems possible you may hear it being made before long.
The overall impact of all this, as best as I can determine, is that it’s allowed Dems to, in effect, stop the internal bleeding of support in Congress for Obama’s strikes.
A senior Senate aide tells me that support for the authorization of strikes had not yet reached 50 Senators, even privately, meaning its passage is in doubt, even in the Senate. “This allows for a pause in the decision-making process,” the aide says.
Indeed, Sam Stein reports that a bipartisan group of Senators is hammering out yet another resolution, one that does the following:
The United Nations would be asked to pass a resolution saying that the Syrian government used chemical weapons; the United Nations would also be required go in and remove all of Syria’s chemical weapons by a certain date; and, finally, if the first two points are not met, U.S. military force would be authorized for use in Syria. The specifics of that authorization were still being negotiated as of Tuesday morning.
The current focus on the Russian proposal creates a kind of “slowdown” to allow for the consideration of other options based on “more complete information,” the Senate aide tells me. Which may be the best outcome the White House can hope for right now, given that the vote on strikes currently pending looks to be in real trouble.