Members of the House Armed Services Committee speak during a committee hearing on a proposed AUMF

Members of the House Armed Services Committee speak during a committee hearing on a proposed AUMF Susan Walsh/AP

HASC Takes on Syria – But Does Anyone Care?

The House Armed Services Committee finally got its chance to debate military action in Syria on Tuesday. But does the committee really have any influence over Congress’ vote? By Stephanie Gaskell

One by one, members of the House Armed Forces Committee asked question after question about a possible strike on Syria for using chemical weapons against its people. As Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey sat before Congress once again to make their case for military action, it was clear that not only was the committee the last to have a go at them -- the fast-changing news events surrounding Syria made the hearing almost obsolete.

During the hearing, Kerry announced that Russia had agreed to get Syria to put its chemical weapons stockpile under international control. And as HASC Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) asked Kerry whether the Obama administration wanted the House to delay a vote on Syria -- as the Senate did -- events were moving so quickly and the committee was so late to the game, it almost didn’t matter.

McKeon wanted to know if a vote was even necessary at this point. “Will the president still seek a congressional vote on the AUMF [Authorization for the Use of Military Force]?” he asked after Kerry and Hagel made their opening statements. “We’re not asking Congress not to vote,” Kerry said, “but it may be, given what the Senate leader has decided, that we see if the Russians make a proposal in the next hours or not.”

So with the Senate vote delayed and the last-minute decision (announced just after the HASC hearing concluded) that President Obama would also wait to see whether Syria would comply with the Russian deal, it became increasingly clear that HASC would once again follow, rather than lead. After all, this is the committee that for two years begged its own House Republican leadership and rank-and-file members to avoid sequestration, and retain high defense spending levels, a plea that largely fell on deaf political ears.

At no point was this clearer than during a testy exchange between Kerry and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). “There has to be a reasonable period to try to work this out,” Kerry said when Miller asked him if the House should delay its vote. “The Senate has already delayed,” Kerry said. Miller shot back: “Because they don’t have the votes, Mr. Secretary. That’s why they delayed. You know that.”

“Actually I don’t,” Kerry said.

“Well, I do,” Miller replied.

“Well, I’m glad you know something,” Kerry said, adding that “this should not be a political discussion about whether there are votes or not.”

“I’m not being political, Mr. Secretary. This is the truth,” Miller said, asking Kerry once again if the House should delay its vote.

“I believe that the Senate has made --,” Kerry started. “This is the House of Representatives,” Miller said.

And so as events unfolded before them, including the news that Obama would delay a strike to see if the Russian plan would work, HASC members set about asking their questions of the panel. Most of the questions had been asked and answered over the past week.

Some members asked how budget cuts would affect the operation. Others asked about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power. There were questions about red lines and what Iran might do. And all members were under a strict 5-minute deadline, leaving little time for meaningful debate anyway.

Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.) had no questions for the panel. “I think everything for the most part has been asked and it’s been answered.”

NEXT STORY: A Tough Case for Strikes on Syria

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.