McConnell Won't Vote for the Syria Strike That May Not Happen Anyway, Thanks to the Russians

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 10 2013 11:15 AM

McConnell Won't Vote for the Syria Strike That May Not Happen Anyway, Thanks to the Russians

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Mitch McConnell gave tepid support for Syria handing over its chemical weapons stockpile.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Republican leader in the Senate, who faces a primary challenge next year, never sounded as warm toward airstrikes in Syria as his opposites in the House. His lengthy statement explaining all of his reasons for a "no" vote is no huge surprise, then. It only gets really interesting, and hurried, when he mentions yesterdays' news that might upend the entire situation.

Last night, we learned about a Russian diplomatic gambit to forestall U.S. military action through a proposal to secure and eventually destroy the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile.  This morning there are initial reports that suggest Syria is supportive of it.  Let me remind everyone that even if this is agreed to, it’s still a long way off to reaching an agreement at the United Nations, to Syria gaining entry to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and to eventually securing, and destroying the stockpile.  As we’ve seen in my own state of Kentucky, destroying chemical weapons is extremely challenging and requires a great deal of attention to detail and safety. Nonetheless, this proposal is worth exploring.

It's nearly unanimous, then—everyone's on board with "exploring" the Russian option. The only challenge for Republicans, message-wise, is pre-emptively arguing that the existence of a plan, in the context of muddled threats of airstrikes on Syria, has nothing at all to do with Obama. Democrats don't want to let that happen. "I think the president's hand has been strengthened all along, contrary to the popular belief," said Connecticut Rep. John Larson yesterday as he (and a bunch of peers) talked optimistically about the Russia proposal.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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