GOP Senator: What Happens After Syria Strike?

Idaho senator Jim Risch explains his "no" vote authorizing military force in volatile nation.
21:44 | 09/04/13

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Transcript for GOP Senator: What Happens After Syria Strike?
This is this special report from ABC news. Again -- -- New York with this ABC news digital special reports one day after grilling secretary of state John Kerry in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved. By a ten to seven margin president Obama's plan to attack Syria -- corker Menendez resolution introduced today. Puts strict boundaries on the president's power like sixty days to attack. With one option to add another thirty -- mind and the guarantee that no American soldiers will set foot people in Syria he's come -- we're joined now news from Washington like Idaho senator Jim -- a Republican who. Just came out of a long day of meetings and mark -- after delivering a no vote on at resolutions that are rich thank you for being with us. You seemed a bit skeptical of the president's plane yesterday today a lot of time behind closed doors editing that plan ultimately. Why did you vote against him. Well I'm still skeptical. I'm really concerned about. Of the plan itself number one -- number two the fallout from this. What's gonna happen. After. There is and attacked by the United States on Syria what is going to be the fallout from that and how is United States gonna respond to that I didn't get -- panic when he answers to my questions. Born -- year things are really concerns me is. An attack right now on Syria. Is going to cause damage is no question to these -- regime. It's the -- Asad regime that is actually securing. The tons. Weapons chemical weapons that they have they're in Syria if that's broken down. Those chemical -- weapons are going to fall in the hands of the opposition. And the opposition although there are some elements that are moderates and certainly we'd love to see. Govern in Syria take over Syria. There are other elements. Which are very unsavory and people who we've been fighting with for a long time. -- radical. Islamic. Factions. -- the -- course is the is the biggest component of that and there's others also. These chemical weapons -- in the hands of those people. We're gonna have a very very bad days somewhere along. The White House has said that the primary objective for any kind of military action would be not for regime change back to uphold international standards. Against using chemical weapons. By any government. If regime change or something of that nature would have been put in this resolution would you have supported that. No not at all for the reasons that I just stated. The administration has said that is the policy in the United States to. Do crazy written -- support regime change in Syria. On the other hand they're saying that they're gonna attack Syria. With -- weapons and they're gonna do the kinds of things you do in war. But that is not intended to change the regime because that would be to stabilizing destabilizing in the country. This just doesn't make sense and it's it's. It's not reconciled real. Did any of the language changes that -- -- from last that's resolution to today's. Come any closer to what you think should be done Syria. Did not really. IE. But we we worked -- a lot of technical language and what have you. I'm also. Was very concerned about some language in there that. Talks about who actually has the power to do this is -- the executive branch or is -- the first branch of government. Namely the elected representatives. The people congress. That -- been going on for a long time. I want to get -- some language they had out of there. Then at least the innuendo was that it was. In the hands of the executive branch founding fathers if you read the Federalist papers and particularly James Madison was very clear. That the most likely -- -- To go to war would be the executive branch and that's why. The founding fathers put it in the first branch of government the ones most responsive to the people. And that's why introduce that amendment that would take out the language of using the constitution as soon as a justification or or straight clearly to tonight we have a three war powers act. Right the amendment has very simple what it did was the nineteen. The November 7 nineteen -- war powers resolution. Which I think is well drafted well written really answers these questions. This should be done pursuant to that. We're getting a little technical in the weeds and it probably people don't care about that but that is a very very critical question. 43 branch of constitutional government that we have. Given the fact that this past by ten to seven with one vote being present and you have Senator John McCain. Obviously a very strong proponent of this do you believe -- that resolution will be filibustered in the senate. Well I don't think it'll be filibustered. I really don't. I think everybody wants to have a straight up or down vote on this or at least I haven't talked to anybody yet detect claims they want to filibuster this then this is serious business. We need to get it out there and -- Move along. Green military I wanted to ask you about there's been a lot of talk about American credibility and it could be credibility from the White House could be credibility from congress could be. Credibility from the -- overall American government do you believe that that in fact he is what's on the line a -- any kind of future actions in Syria. Well I think it's a factor I really do. But I kind of view this little differently. They're seeing if we don't do something then and undermines our credibility I guess the problem I have with that is. What happens when we do do something the most powerful war machine in the world and after a -- -- -- or six or whatever it is of bombings. To take place. -- crawls out from under his rock beats his chest and says look -- up to the year. American war machine I -- I'm still here it's going to be business as usual here. What's that gonna do -- our credibility so so that's really should not not. I'm not advocating that that we we do going and finish the job but I guarantee you. There's going to be people saying -- -- America's so powerful how come you didn't finish the job so when your mind then what does success in Syria look like. Well success in Syria is very difficult. But what it looks like is. The rebels and in only part of the rebels that is the moderate part of the rebels. Defeating this -- removing him taking over the government and in having me -- moderate secular government in Syria. That that's a heavy -- that that that the likelihood of that happening. It isn't particularly good. Particularly if you look at the way the. Some of the more radical elements right now. Are -- themselves in the institutions in Syria getting ready for -- change a regime which sooner or later has to come one way or another. That that that is not that doesn't look good -- with that included adding additional support by the US to rebels in Syria. Well that that's a difficult situation. The idea. I originally voted for in the room in the foreign relations committee I was one of the people -- voted in favor of giving arms to rebels. A couple of weeks later we had a briefing. After the administration developer plans to what they were going to do. And -- served notice that. That resolution -- on the floor I'm not gonna vote against because I have -- on the intelligence committee I'm privy to what they're gonna try to do with it. -- -- I can't talk about the details here I am not satisfied in any way shape or form. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- The resolution you voted on today was four US approach what if there was an international contingency regardless of what the UN findings come back with would that be acceptable. I would doubt that. Again I think we have to make our own judgment here in the United States. A -- he had the UN stand up and save -- intact by the United States and Syria would be a violation of law. I'm not exactly sure what law they're talking about. -- we we have to make up our own mind on these things -- -- up my mind based on what I heard based on the facts based upon. Hours and hours and hours a -- -- some open mostly. In a classified -- I made up my own mind when I thought. Was good for the American people and that's what everybody -- doing. Nobody's got a monopoly on that and certainly this is a judgment call. Once this happens and presents given authority to go to war. Those of us who voted against it'll get on our knees just like everybody else every night and pray for the America pray for the people that are in harm's way and and pray for success of the mission. A vote of conscious is is really what we've been hearing a lot about what are you hearing that from your constituents. Well how. -- did to -- down to a simple statement that I hear most commonly is let. These people didn't do anything to us what why would getting involved there. And that's what I'm hearing from my constituents they they do not want to do this. And look at that this is a matter when you're we're talking about using their might in the power of the united states military. It should be used whenever there is a matter of national security. I don't view this is a matter of national security people keep saying -- it's national security is that we don't do this somebody will do it again. Head. Aside used chemical weapons against any American against any American interest. Against any of our allies and looking particularly -- Israel -- in a neighbor of there's this would have been an absolute no brainer for me I'd have been all win. But under the present circumstances he really has no ability. I don't believe to hurt any Americans -- hurt American interest. And -- I what when he when it comes to. The use of of military power buy America we are them -- largest. Strongest. Player. When it comes to military force on the face of this planet. Using restraint. Does not show weakness and in in my judgment. Restraint should be use. Oh win now you're talking about unleashing this force. On the on the situation that does not in my judgment threaten American security. And let -- before we let you go wanted to ask you about something that the White House has been talking about a the president obviously over Sweden right now ahead of the G-20 summit -- start tomorrow. And the president was asked about the comment about the Red Line about the use of chemical weapons and whether or not that in fact would be -- tipping point for US intervention. And the president saying that it is not a red line that he drew that it was an international. Effort do you adhere to that same line of reasoning. Well how I I'm not exactly sure what the president was thinking before you sign off for signed onto and I won in a little bit more about what he was thinking. So it certainly chemical weapons do not meet -- national norm. But remember that this is the first time this happened he's been using a chemical weapons for. Fourteen months we know -- well over a dozen situations are ready Saddam Hussein used -- on. On his own people on the Kurds he used it. On the Iranians so so this has happened before and the international community didn't rise up United States and rise up. I'm not saying that's an excuse -- -- certainly don't wanna say that there's any. Excuse whatsoever for using -- chemical weapons. It's a really really bad thing to do. The question is what what should the response be in -- true. All right Idaho senator Jim rash senator thank you so much for -- -- and we appreciate that. I want to bring in now ABC news political director Rick Klein to talk about this -- any surprises with today's -- 107. There is so much to unpack here Dan -- just for starters look at the coalition's. They came together here you had someone like Senator McCain joining with the democratic majority on this committee. And 107 really a squeaker on the no side. It's stunning to me -- are two votes in particular because there a couple of -- -- think you are running for president in 2016. As Republicans. That would be senator Paul who's been on record is pretty far down the road of opposing this. And then senator Marco Rubio he -- -- if anything in the hawk category on this thinking the president isn't doing enough. There's a lot of political calculation that goes into that -- it tells you how much politics around national security around. War and foreign policy and flipped in the last decade. The -- have Republican presidential candidates now considering it a safer vote against military action and not for military action. One other stunning votes in -- senator Ed Markey Democrat from Massachusetts this is one of his first big votes as United States senator he replaced Senator Kerry now has senator Kerry's old seat. He voted presence on this vote. Is if he's trying to say look I don't want to oppose the guy who -- I now hold out of respect for Senator Kerry in his judgment but not wanted to be on record in support of this that is -- indicative. Of how difficult this fight is going to be for the White House to try to cobble together a coalition. A majority anyway you can find it to try to support military action in Syria will what do you read into that the two Democrats that voted no on this resolution. Not surprises because they told us in advance for -- -- a relatively. Seeking votes for the white house on almost any issue senator Udall of New Mexico senator Murphy of Connecticut and they're not -- -- of -- They're not off the reservation very often lets put that their folks that usually in any kind of vote count -- counting on them in a column of the White House but now responding to get their constituents in their home states are calling in we're hearing this from all senate offices across the board. No one seems to be supporting military action all of the voices that they are hearing from -- people saying that we should hold back on this. They're giving voice to some of the liberal angst over this vote. We've also had a series of of liberal groups come out and say -- interest in launching primary challenges against folks. Who vote for this even Democrats who vote for President Obama that is an amazing role reversal. And again it's just a tiny indication of the bigger challenge that's going to be ahead. Most of the folks you talk to don't think they're getting it passed the senate is going to be the main challenge it's going to be up the House of Representatives that's -- the president is gonna have to shop for votes in places that he isn't likely to find the very easily. -- the rationale for the no votes across the board is -- uniform statement. You heard what senator Reid should say had about the fact that the US is not to be the one they should be held accountable for holding those international standards when it comes to -- chemical weapons. I would say there is not much uniformity in the opposition you come at this from several different directions. The one that the one strain that you can draw Adam -- the liberal and the libertarian to the extremes in this is that. This is not a role -- United States government's I think you're getting added at the closest thing there is to match it up. But there isn't a lot ideologically that matches the liberals and libertarians on this. Other than the feeling that this is not something we should be doing -- their constituents feel like. More involvement in another Middle Eastern war is just not what we should be doing at this time -- they haven't made a compelling case. About what we do and how our actions here make a real difference in and matter to ordinary Americans. That's the president's key challenge here Dan is that he has not made that case the American people we've seen -- borne out in our polls we see it they are out in out in the votes that are happening on Capitol Hill. Didn't the American people are not convinced that this is in the vital national security interest -- that they're not going to be fans of the Asad regime -- fans of using chemical weapons. They're deathly not idiots that fans of using military force to try to enforce things that are international standards international norms that don't have a direct link. To US nationals. You can you can hear those statements getting louder and getting repeated more often over the past couple of days at the White -- has tried to distance. -- any kind of decision that was made in Iraq or any other war involvement by the US to distance it into really try to make this as a very separate issue. Rick I want to ask you -- how much is that senate debates and affect the tone of argument that'll happen in the house. They'll be watching and particularly picking up on things that may be effective in this most house members are gonna vote on this there of their own conscious -- not looking for direction from the senate. But the there's an ability that these senators have this provide cover for house members one way or the other and I think. Against -- the rubio is vote probably in most interest thing of the of the votes in committee today. Is going to be seen as as an opportunity for a lot of Republicans were skeptical of this the kind of follow behind him. He has a leadership role in the party by -- of his national celebrity people know him as as a national figure -- -- twice sixteen contender. And I think that's likely to -- it to provide an extra focal point you have the leadership of all parties here it's rather extraordinary you have a situation where. The democratic leadership the Republican leaders -- all saying vote for this thing -- comfortable supporting it and still the outcome is in doubt even if it's not serious doubt right now there is some doubt around it. And then you have these other major players that are emerging senator Paulson of the rubio. On the right and then on the left folks like senator Murphy senator Udall and even -- of their marquee deciding not to cast a vote either way today. This yesterday secretary Kerry and senator Rand -- -- to a bit of a heated exchange during that senate formulations. Committee. And today it was -- attack though with represented Jeff Duncan from South Carolina with secretary -- wanna play a bit of that exchange. Well let me begin Carson by. Challenging your proposition. That I've never done anything except advocated caution. Because I volunteered fight for my country. And that wasn't. A cautious thing to do when I did it. Mr. -- a second here when I was in the senate -- I'm gonna finish congressman I am going to finish when I was in the United States senate. I supported military action in any number of occasions. Including. Grenada Panama can run a list of them. And I am not gonna sit here and be told you that I don't have a sense of what the judgment is with the respect to this we're talking about people being killed. By gas and you wanna go talk about -- Ghazi and fast and furious. Adds a -- -- talk about got -- -- -- Americans lost their -- I have sympathy for the people in Syria. And I do think there should be a -- -- response but we should act cautiously. You know -- the only -- are acting cautiously we are acting so cautiously that the president the United States. Was accused of not acting because he wanted to have sufficient evidence that he wanted to build the case properly it's been hit opening days. And a congress -- we -- now are true than not you'll feel that -- German point of privilege here this important. I think this is important. I think it is important whether or not. The -- We're going into Syria. In a way that the congressman describes which. I think most people in America don't want us to do we don't want to do that that's why the president has said no boots on the ground. This is not about getting into serious civil war this is about enforcing the principal. That people shouldn't be allowed to cast their citizens -- impunity. And if we don't vote to do this Assad will interpret from you that he's free to go and do this any day he wants to that's what this is about. Not getting involved in Syria's civil war. So let's draw the proper distinction here congressman. We don't deserve to drag this into yet another -- -- discussion when the real issue here is whether or not the congress is gonna stand up for. International norms with respect to dictators. That have only been broken twice. Until last side -- And Sodom Hussein and if we give license to somebody to continue that shame on us when you're an -- a -- David. So Rick -- -- get your thoughts on that as this debate is going to be moving forward will there be other issues introduced both sides. They got these anniversary is next week -- his -- congressman Duncan pointed out there are many Republican congressman that wanna be talking about almost nothing but that they feel like that it's a political territory. Senator carries -- us secretary Kerry's response -- fiery. In his reaction personal in his reaction talking about his own. Background on this his own. Personal experience with warfare it's a comfortable position for this White House for this president for this team to be associated. With a fresh military action given it back front on this given the skepticism on the record. Over so many years. And that's just an indication of how testing they are obviously do not want -- be. Re litigating old battles around this they don't want the shadow of -- rock -- -- 9/11 anything else to complicate this. They want this to be considered on its merits and that's right now where that the top -- lies ahead I think secretary Kerry has been. Getting pretty high marks for his ability lay out the case. Against the side President Obama hasn't been engaged even as much of a high profile effort is that he's now abroad will be trying to work on the international coalitions that are part of this. But it was using public opinion shifts in a major way you're going to see a lot of skepticism out there both democratic and Republican as this comes to the floor next week. All right CBC's Rick Klein and Washington DC -- very latest on this vote read thank you for that we certainly appreciate it. Of course that -- and as a resolution did pass the senate by a vote of ten to seven. The debate of course continuing into the house as the house foreign affairs committee had its hearing today we have a complete report on For now I'm Dan after -- New York with this ABC news digital special report. This has been a special report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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