Syria Update: Hagel, Kerry To Appear Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Congress will hold its first public hearing in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 2:30pm on Tuesday afternoon to discuss on President Obama's request for military action in Syria. This will be the first test of the issue before Congress as members emerge from scheduled recess this week, and onlookers scramble to see where U.S. lawmakers stand on the issue. 

Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey are scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the body tasked with leading foreign policy legislation and debate in the Senate. A closed briefing open to all members of Congress is also expected to take place. Several closed conference calls briefing lawmakers are already reported to have taken place between Obama officials and selected members of Congress over the weekend.

The upcoming hearing will not include a vote on the drafted resolution or its exact wording, and it remains unclear exactly when an official vote will take place. The 18-member Senate Foreign Relations Committee now holding preliminary hearings was formerly chaired by John Kerry from 2009 until February of this year. This will be a return for Defense Secretary Hagel as well, who also formerly served on the committee.

Sentators Robert Menendez (D- N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee respectively, have spoken in support of limited military action against the Assad regime.  Foreign Relations Committee democrats include Senators Cardin (Md.), Shaheen (N.H.), Coons (De.), Durbin (Ill.), Udall (N.M.), Murphy (Ct.), Kaine (Va.) and Markey (Mass.), while committee republicans include Risch (Id.), Rubio (Fl.), Johnson (Wi.), Flake (Az.), McCain (Az.), Barrasso (Wy.) and Paul (Ky.)

As Congress begins to emerge from recess, much speculation has turned towards the divided House of Representatives. This Washington Post infographic shows where 195 members of the House of Representatives stand on intervention in Syria, with the majority still undecided. Notably, House Speaker John Boehner emerged on Tuesday to say that he plans to “support the president’s call to action,” adding a crucial Republican ally to the call to military action in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

President Obama reportedly summoned Speaker Boehner and other Republican and Democratic leaders to the White House early on Tuesday morning for a closed meeting to discuss the Syrian issue. The President is slated to depart for a three-day trip to Russia on Tuesday evening to attend the G-20 summit as the Syria debate continues to unfold in Washington. 

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Rachel George

Rachel is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the London School of Economics. She holds a BA in Politics from Princeton and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard. Her interests include journalism, U.S. foreign policy, human rights, and international law.

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