Lawmakers give mixed reactions to Syria speech

Posted at 12:46 PM, Sep 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-11 12:46:49-04

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama's Syria speech Tuesday night drew a variety of political commentary ranging from mostly supportive to harsh criticism of the diplomatic pinball that has led to this point.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said in a statement that he's "hopeful a diplomatic solution can be reached, however, I am skeptical of any proposal proffered by the Russians and doubt Assad's motives for agreeing to this plan ... the President still urgently needs to develop and execute a coherent strategy to address all of those threats."

Two of the most ardent proponents of a strike in Congress delivered even more couched remarks, with a joint statement from Republican Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona saying they regretted that the President "did not speak more forcefully about the need to increase our military assistance to moderate opposition forces in Syria, such as the Free Syrian Army," they said.

"We also regret that he did not lay out a clearer plan to test the seriousness of the Russian and Syrian proposal to transfer the Assad regime's chemical weapons to international custody."

Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who was believed to be one of the most ardent opponents of any military strike on Syria, said on Twitter that the Obama speech did nothing to convince him. To CNN, he argued that "what the president has planned is not going to accomplish what he says he's going to accomplish," in punishing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the believed use of chemical weapons last month, Paul said.

Even Democrats seemed unlikely to heap open praise on the Obama administration, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi one of the few to give open credit to Obama. "Pres. Obama's leadership brought diplomatic solutions back to the table, shows his willingness to exhaust every remedy before use of force," she tweeted.

Connecticut Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy has been skeptical of a military strike but called the address a "good speech" on Twitter, arguing that Obama was right to delay the vote. "Resolution of Syrian crisis can only come through political & diplomatic means," he wrote.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland has been undecided on a military strike against Syria but he credited Obama for making a "great moral argument," in particular pointing out Obama's contention that U.S. troops could be gassed. Still Cummings urged caution, saying that the U.S. must be careful any action doesn't "mushroom into something else," he said.

The Senate has delayed any vote on the Syria resolution, a resolution that now has even less support after the Russian government offered a path to Syria handing over its chemical weapons stockpiles, which Syria appears to have embraced.

One of the few seemingly still in favor of the resolution is Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a statement he said "I believe Congress can best support the goal of a diplomatic solution by approving a resolution that authorizes the use of force if Syria refuses to give up its chemical weapons."

--CNN's Bryan Koenig contributed to this report