John Hudson reports on Rand Paul’s reaction to the Foreign Relations Committee’s 15-3 vote to approve the Menendez-Corker Senate legislation that authorizes arming some of the Syrian opposition:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blasted members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, which voted overwhelmingly to arm elements of the Syrian opposition in a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). “This is an important moment,” Paul said, addressing his Senate colleagues. “You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”
Sen. Paul was one of the three votes against the bill, and he was joined by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Tom Udall of New Mexico. It is not surprising that the vote was so lopsidedly in favor of the bill. Not only are the bill’s sponsors the chairman and ranking member of the committee, but very few members are interested in leading the opposition to arming Syrian rebels. Corker has described arming the opposition as essentially symbolic, and because it is one of the less aggressive options available it is bound to encounter less resistance. Menendez-Corker is a bad bill, but it also represents the activism of a “do something” caucus that wants to be seen taking action without committing to anything too risky. The committee’s members can approve the bill in the knowledge that it may never come up for a vote before the whole Senate, and consequently they won’t have to be responsible for the consequences of a bad policy option.
Observers say the bill’s chances of passing in its current form are slim, but it does increase the pressure on the administration to intervene more aggressively.
It’s not clear that this vote puts the administration under any additional pressure. Certainly, a dedicated group of Syria hawks will keep agitating for more aggressive measures, and we can hope that they will continue to be ignored. Nonetheless, the vote is a disturbing sign that the vast majority of the members responsible for Senate oversight on foreign policy is so desperate to entangle the U.S. more deeply in a conflict in which we have nothing significant at stake.