09/09/2013 02:59 pm ET Updated Sep 09, 2013

Harry Reid Backs Syria Strike Ahead Of Senate Vote

WASHINGTON -- Calling the use of chemical weapons in Syria a "clear violation" of international laws and human rights, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday formally backed authorizing a strike against Syria.

Reid cited a 13-minute video from Syria of the Aug. 21 incident, which the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people. Reid said he couldn't stop thinking about the "little baby boys and girls dressed in colorful play clothes ... boys and girls, some looked like teenagers, retching in spasms."

"Without question, this brutality demands a response," Reid said.

His robust backing of President Barack Obama's request for authorization to bomb Syria comes as many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle seem to be turning against it, with more members of Congress leaning toward opposing a resolution to authorize a strike than backing one.

Reid's plea came as a possible path around U.S. military action began to emerge, with Russia saying it could support putting Syria's chemical weapons under control of the United Nations.

Still, Reid insisted that the Senate should have the debate, and he reached back to Dante's "Inferno" to make the case that the United States has a moral obligation to act. "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality," Reid quoted.

"Sitting on the sidelines isn't what made the United States the greatest nation in the past, and yes, today," Reid said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted last week to allow an intervention of up to 90 days that bars the United States from putting "boots on the ground."

Reid, speaking on the first day since the Senate returned from its summer break, was not answered or echoed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell, who is facing a tough primary challenge in his 2014 reelection bid, has not taken a position on Syria. His GOP challenger Matt Bevin has come out against military intervention and on Monday stepped up pressure on the Senate minority leader to make his opinion public.

Instead, Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats took to the floor to oppose striking Syria. Coats essentially blamed Obama for the fact that the vote was being held in the first place, saying the president should never have drawn his infamous "red line" against chemical weapons use.

"I agree with those who say the president's credibility and our nation's credibility are linked -- they are," Coats said. "However, with his now notorious, and I believe ill-considered, red line comment, President Obama has forced us to debate another military attack in yet another Middle Eastern country. Unfortunately, it appears the purpose of the attack, this military attack, first and foremost, is perhaps to defend his own credibility. I'm certain that if the president had not drawn his red line, we would not be having this discussion."

Coats also said many more questions needed to be answered before he would be willing to vote to commit America to another war.



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