Congress is scheduled to cast its first vote on Wednesday on the question of whether to authorize military intervention in Syria.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that senators should plan to vote "sometime" on Wednesday on a motion to proceed to the Syria resolution, a procedural vote that will offer an early glimpse at whether President Barack Obama has the necessary votes in the upper chamber to support his request for authorization to strike Syria.
The vote will follow Obama's prime-time address to the nation on Tuesday evening, as well as the president's visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday afternoon to huddle privately with Senate Democrats. (Reid said that Obama had also offered to meet privately with Republican senators.)
In remarks on the Senate floor, Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, exhorted colleagues to support the resolution.
"America's willingness to stand for what's right should not end at our borders," the majority leader said.
Reid even invoked a line from Dante's "Inferno:" “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”
White House officials also said Monday that a pending Russian proposal to transfer Syrian chemical weapons caches to international control should not delay the planned congressional votes.
“We’re going to take a hard look at this. We will talk to the Russians about it,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken. “But I think it’s very important to note that it’s clear that this proposal comes in the context of the threat of U.S. action and the pressure that the president is exerting. And so it’s even more important that we don’t take the pressure off and that Congress gives the president the authority he’s requested."
Reid also said that senior Obama administration officials would prepare a classified briefing for senators on Wednesday in advance of the vote.
The White House has launched an intense lobbying effort to win over lawmakers on the Syria resolution, reflecting the high political stakes for Obama should Congress rebuff his request for permission to use force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Vice President Joe Biden hosted a group of senators for dinner on Sunday, and Obama "stopped by" the gathering. A group of senators also met Monday at the White House, and more briefings for lawmakers in the House and Senate are expected this week.
Still, a growing number of senators have declared their opposition to military intervention in Syria, making it seem as though the Obama administration faces an uphill battle in winning support for the resolution. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tenn., and Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., both of whom are regarded as relative moderates in the Senate, each declared their opposition to the Syria resolution on Monday.
First published September 9 2013, 11:09 AM