Connecting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America and the Aug. 21 chemical gas attack in Syria, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday called on Congress to "keep the threat of military action" in Syria on the table.
Reid, D-Nev., made the plea at the start of Senate business despite growing opposition to military action among lawmakers in both chambers and in national public opinion polls.
Reid and several other Democrats loyal to President Obama are among a small minority of party lawmakers to come out in favor of the strike.
Reid credited the president's threat of military force for inspiring Syria to come to the bargaining table with international authorities who want to take control of the war-torn nation's chemical weapon stockpiles.
Even as Obama this week began urging Congress to give him the authority to strike Syria, Russia, a Syrian ally, proposed a possible deal that would spare Syria from attacks, though the parameters for such a deal remain sketchy. Some lawmakers have warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be merely toying with the United States and using the offer as a tactic to delay a military strike.
"Leaders in Damascus and Moscow should understand that Congress will be watching negotiations closely," Reid said. "If there is any indication that negotiations are not serious or will not effectively prevent further atrocities, the Senate will act quickly to give the president the authority to hold the Assad regime accountable."
Reid said earlier in the week that he believes he has the 60 votes needed to advance the war resolution in the Senate even though only a couple dozen lawmakers have expressed support for the measure publicly.
In a televised speech to the nation Tuesday, Obama said he has requested that Congress delay a vote on the resolution while he hammers out a deal with Russia and Syria.
Reid had already postponed what would have been their first vote on the resolution Wednesday after lawmakers learned of the Russian proposal. Some believe Reid was eager to delay the vote any way because it appeared headed for defeat.
"Today we bow our heads in solemn remembrance of a devastating time in our nation’s history," Reid said of the 9/11 attacks 12 years ago. "Even as we pay tribute to America’s tradition of freedom for every citizen, across the globe an evil dictator denies his citizens not only their right to liberty but also their right to live.
Reid said he would revive the war resolution if the two sides fail to reach a diplomatic solution.