2016 contenders: Why Syria is tough for GOP's Marco Rubio (+video)
Sen. Marco Rubio believes the US must intervene in Syria. But backing Obama on military strikes would have been politically costly. So he found a way to vote no.
In Pictures Syria's civil war: a Middle East crisis
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The Florida Republican spent two years urging US intervention in that nation’s civil war, but now, he says, the Obama administration has got it all wrong in calling for a military strike. On Wednesday, Senator Rubio voted against granting President Obama limited authority to take military action. The resolution passed, 10-7.
“While I have long argued forcefully for engagement in empowering the Syrian people, I have never supported the use of US military force in the conflict. And I still don’t,” Rubio said after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote. “I remain unconvinced that the use of force proposed here will work.”
Rubio voted no alongside fellow committeeman Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, another likely 2016-er who, like Rubio, was elected to the Senate with strong tea party support. But the two men hold sharply differing views on foreign policy: Senator Paul hails from the libertarian/isolationist wing of the Republican Party (as does fellow GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who also appears to have the 2016 bug).
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Rubio sees vital US interests in Syria, given its connection to Iran, and argues that America’s exceptional status in the world dictates that it lead – just not militarily. In his remarks, Rubio said he had wanted Mr. Obama to pursue “a more robust engagement” in the hopes of helping the Syrian people replace their president, Bashar al-Assad, with a secular, moderate government. In the past two years, more than 100,000 Syrian civilians have died in the nation’s internal conflict. Last month, President Assad allegedly used chemical weapons against his own people, spurring Obama’s call for airstrikes.
Obama will not face voters again, but for those hoping to replace him, Syria represents the first big foreign policy test. All the governors jockeying for position have an easy dodge: They don’t have to cast a vote. If asked how they would vote if they had to, they can say they’re busy running their states, and (in some cases) running for reelection. That was Gov. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey’s response Tuesday when asked about Syria. Others, like Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) of Maryland and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York, have stayed mum.
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