Ed Markey Annoys Literally Everyone by Voting ‘Present’ on Syrian Resolution

The Senator didn't vote yes or no on the measure, which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved.

Senator Ed Markey has inspired some head-scratching and even cries of “cowardice” for voting “present” on a resolution authorizing President Obama to use force against the Syrian regime.

Markey told the Boston Globe he was worried about language that was added to the resolution that might make it too broad, but he didn’t have enough information for an outright “no.” Even so, it’s the kind of vote that annoys both sides in the debate. The rest of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee narrowly approved the measure, intended to punish the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons against its own citizens, with a 10-7 vote that sets it up for a showdown in the full Senate. Markey said he’ll have a definitive vote then. (Update: Markey’s full statement on the vote is here.)

Markey seems to have been in an awkward position. He sits in the seat held by now-Secretary of State John Kerry, who urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to give the resolution their approval. It would have made an outright “no” vote a bit awkward.

Markey had earlier demanded that the President seek congressional approval before using military force. That makes his “present” vote read a bit like, “You better ask my opinion on this, but meh, I don’t really have one.”

Markey’s statement, issued last week, suggested (as has his vote) that he’s seeking debate on the resolution, but doesn’t have a strong stance for or against it:

The use of chemical weapons is a heinous and despicable act that appears to be the work of a brutal dictator who has quashed dissent and killed innocent men, women, and children. We must be mindful, however, of the complexities of the situation in Syria. The aftermath of a U.S. strike on targets in Syria is difficult to predict, with negative consequences that may be beyond our capability to control. That’s why I am looking forward to a thorough, detailed debate that hears all sides.

But the fact that he hasn’t made up his mind doesn’t make his “present” vote any less of a political liability. Former Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez reprised his role as Markey’s opponent and took to Twitter to slam him on his vote:

Meanwhile conservative pundit Michael Graham tried to rub it in the faces of  Massachusetts Democrats angered by Markey’s lack of support for the President, noting that Gomez probably would have voted with the Democrats had we elected him.

A look at how the rest of the Senate committee voted, of course, shows that this sort of oversimplifies the issue as the yes and no votes didn’t follow any particular party line. Even so, you can expect Markey to hear about it from whomever faces him in his not-so-distant reelection campaign