McCain Defecting on Syria?

Even as the Menendez-Corker version of a use-of-force resolution on Syria seems to have shored up a majority on the Senate Armed Services Committee, an important warhawk, John McCain, has announced he will oppose it. His rationale is consistent with what he has been saying all along: he favors not just a “punitive strike” against Assad, but active engagement in the Syrian civil war on the rebel side with regime change the explicit goal.

The question now is how many votes McCain can bring along with him (aside from his Amigo Lindsey Graham), and whether he can be talked down from a position that cannot be accommodated b the White House without losing far more votes from senators worried about mission creep.

There have already been many insta-toxonomies written of the congressional factions on this vote. The most elaborate, by the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet, finds no less than ten discrete tendencies in the House, with five leaning towards and five leaning against a use-of-force resolution. Assuming there is a similar configuration of factions in the Senate, McCain can be identified with two of the presumed leaning-for factions: Neocons and senior Republican leaders of the Intelligence and Armed Services Committee. Just as importantly, McCain could reinforce the tendency of congressional Republicans generally to find some reason for voting “no” even if they agree with key elements of the administration’s case against Assad. Voting to thwart Obama is always an easy reach for the GOP these days.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.