The top Republican in the Senate said Tuesday he will oppose President Obama's call for strikes on Syria, saying the president has not made a credible case and that direct U.S. national security interests are not at stake.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, becomes the first of the top four congressional leaders to oppose Mr. Obama on strikes.
He said the president's intentions may be good in Syria, but he's suffering from a disastrous foreign policy that led to this point, including embracing "a humbler, more withdrawn America" and shirking world leadership.
"This one punitive strike we're debating could not make up for the president's performance over the past five years," Mr. McConnell said. "The only way — the only way — for him to achieve the credibility he seeks is by embracing the kind of serious, integrated national security plan that matches strategy to resources, capabilities to commitments, and which shows our allies around the world that the U.S. is fully engaged and ready to act at a moment's notice in all the major areas of concern around the globe."
He said he is torn between the desire to back up the commander in chief, and his evaluation of Mr. Obama's plan for limited strikes, and concluded that there is no strategy for success.
"This proposal just does not stand up," he said on the Senate floor. "Our vital national security risks are clearly not in play."
Mr. McConnell, who said he is not an isolationist and that this vote doesn't suggest he is changing, said instead that he and his constituents back home in Kentucky have been unconvinced by the president's case for attacks, saying he was "dumfounded" by how poorly the administration has argued.
His stance puts him at odds with House Speaker John A. Boehner, who announced last week he would support Mr. Obama's call for military action.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Mr. Boehner said he remains supportive, arguing that it's critical to show a united front behind the president at a time like this, particularly when chemical weapons use was involved.
"I've supported every president that I've served under for the last 23 years when it comes to the use of military force," Mr. Boehner said. "There's one person who speaks for the United States of America when it comes to foreign policy, and that's the president of the United States."
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