Senate Returns From Recess Early To Vote On Syria Strikes

The Senate held a brief session Friday to start the process of voting on the Syria resolution next week.

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Congress wasn't set to return from summer recess until Monday, but today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid briefly convened the Senate to formally file a resolution that would authorize those Syria strikes. The four-minute session starts the clock running to get a series of votes on the measure starting next week. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: From the Senate chamber this afternoon, there was a sound you usually don't hear three days before Congress is scheduled to come back from summer recess.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Senate will come to order.

CHANG: With all the Senate rules governing when legislation can finally get to an up or down vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted to get the ball rolling right away by convening the Senate today. This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution that would authorize military action in Syria for up to 90 days. It also prohibits American troops on the ground for combat operations.

Reid thanked Committee Chair Robert Menendez of New Jersey and ranking member Bob Corker of Tennessee.

SENATOR HARRY REID: They set a tremendous model of bipartisanship, collaboration for the Senate. I admire both these good men for the work that they've done and the leadership that they showed in allowing us to be at the point where we are now in this difficult situation.

CHANG: A procedural vote is expected next Wednesday. That's when a possible filibuster could occur. It's unclear whether there are 60 votes to break that filibuster. Reid needs as many Democrats as possible on this one and two Democrats are already circulating a competing resolution. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota want to give Syria 45 days to sign an international chemical weapons ban before any U.S. military action can be taken.

Meanwhile, the White House is continuing its onslaught of classified briefings and phone calls to persuade lawmakers into yes votes. Whether the House would act on its own resolution or wait until the Senate passes one is still unknown. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol.

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