The Foreign Relations Committee’s Second Vote

Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 to authorize a limited use of military force in Syria. Those voting for the resolution included Chris Coons, Robert Menendez, Barbara Boxer, Benjamin Cardin, Jeanne Shaheen, Dick Durbin and Tim Kaine, all Democrats, joined by Republicans Bob Corker, John McCain and Jeff Flake. The resolution was amended, at McCain’s insistence, in a manner that puts the U.S. on the side of the rebels, in principle, at least. You get the feeling the Democrats didn’t much care what, exactly, the resolution said.

Democrats Tom Udall and Chris Murphy voted “No,” along with Republicans James Risch–did you know there is a Senator named James Risch? I didn’t–Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, John Barasso and Rand Paul. Edward Markey of Massachusetts voted “Present,” for reasons it is hard to imagine.

Rand Paul offered an amendment to the resolution containing the following language:

It is the sense of the Senate that the President does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

Paul’s amendment was voted down 14-4, which tells you all you need to know about how the politics of military force have shifted. In 2008, candidate Barack Obama answered questions posed by the Boston Globe, including this one:

Q. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites — a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

A. The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

Today, the Democrats refuse to endorse a verbatim quote from Barack Obama on his signature issue–opposition to the executive’s use of force abroad. Have they actually changed their minds? Or were their hysterical attacks on President Bush completely insincere? Who knows? But if the Democrats aren’t embarrassed by Senator Paul’s gambit, they should be.

UPDATE: The Boston Herald reports on Markey’s “Present” vote:

The Massachusetts Republican Party in a mocking statement titled “Profiles in Courage,” said, “This comes after a week of demanding President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry present their plan to Congress for a vote so the U.S. can “lead on this issue.” When it came time to lead today, 10 Senators voted yes, 7 Senators voted no, and Ed Markey timidly raised his hand and said ‘here’.”

“It seems Ed Markey has decided that instead of continuing to flip-flop on matters of national security, he simply won’t vote.” Said MassGOP Executive Director Rob Cunningham. “Massachusetts voters already have a reason to regret choosing Markey to fill John Kerry’s shoes.”

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