In the Senate, Syria Vote Delayed

Senate postpones vote on Syria to give Obama more time.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., makes his way to the floor of the Senate to introduce a resolution to authorize military action to support President Barack Obama's request for a strike against Syria, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., gave an impassioned speech for action in Syria Monday afternoon comparing Syrian President Bashar Assad to Adolf Hitler and sitting on the sidelines to Dante's "Inferno."

Hours later, he took to the floor again, this time to announce the Senate's vote for action would need to be delayed.

[READ: Obama Blitzes Press to Make Case for Syria; Assad Threatens Back]

"I don't think we need to see how fast we can do this. We have to see how well we can do this matter," Reid said on the Senate floor Monday night. "I think what we need to do is make sure that the president has the opportunity to speak to all 300 million American people before we do this." 

The debate on Syria has put congressional leaders like Reid in the difficult spot of making the case to their rank-and-file, while still allowing senators to vote their conscience on an issue as monumental as an entanglement in Syria. As of Monday, the battle for votes was not going in leadership's favor. 

Monday alone, six senators – including one of Reid's needed Democrats, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. – announced publicly they'd be voting against the resolution to intervene in the region. Without a successful vote in the Senate, aides in the House say leaders there are not likely to bring it up. 

Complicating matters even more, Monday, Russia proposed a plan for the Syrian government to get it to turn over all its chemical weapons in the country to the international community. President Barack Obama said if Assad agreed to do that, he would call off the strikes all together.

[POLL: Potential U.S. Military Strike in Syria Most Unpopular in 20 Years]

"I think it's certainly a positive development when the Russians and the Syrians both make gestures toward dealing with these chemical weapons," Obama said during an interview with CNN. "This is what we've been asking for not just over the last week or the last month, but for the last couple of years." 

But key GOP defense hawks like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been devoted to strikes in Syria and has gone out on a limb to make the case to his colleagues, was appalled by the president's revised "red line." 

"It should be clear to members of Congress that only the threat of military action against the Assad regime's chemical weapons capabilities is what could create a possibility for Assad to give up control of those weapons," McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a joint statement Monday. "For this reason, Congress should proceed with its plans to consider and vote on the authorization for use of force that is now before the Senate, and today's development should make members of Congress more willing to vote yes." 

Lawmakers opposed to the Obama administration's call for strikes against Syria aren't advocating the president turn a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis in the region. Instead, anti-war senators are proactively introducing their own plans to stop Assad from using chemical weapons again. 

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Heitkamp, joined forces Monday to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict before launching a military assault against Assad.

[READ: Congress Returns From Recess With Syria in the Spotlight]

While they admonished Assad's use of chemical weapons against 1,400 civilians, the moderate Democrats argued the White House hasn't exhausted all the diplomatic options. 

The Manchin and Heitkamp resolution would require the Obama administration to more clearly outline its strategy and goals in Syria. The resolution would also give the Assad regime 45 days to sign an international agreement, the Chemical Weapons Convention, a promise that it would not use chemical weapons again. 

"If, after 45 days, the Assad regime mistakes our deliberate and careful democratic process for lack of will and immunity, it does so at its own peril," Heitkamp said in a statement. 

But one Syria expert warns that the plan and alternatives like it, give Assad too much leverage, time and flexibility to hide or unleash chemicals against his people once again.