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Senate panel approves resolution on Syria military action

First Published      Last Updated Sep 04 2013 06:03 pm

WASHINGTON • A divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved an authorization of force against the Syrian regime, setting up a showdown next week in the full Senate on whether President Barack Obama should have the authority to strike.

The 10-7 vote showed bipartisan support for a strike, but bipartisan opposition as well. Yes votes included Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. No votes included Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn. The Senate's newest member, Edward Markey, D-Mass., voted present.

The resolution would limit strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to 60 days, with the possibility of 30 more days upon consultation with Congress, and it would specifically block the use of ground troops. But to keep McCain's crucial support, the committee toughened some of the language.

The panel set aside a resolution by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and a fierce opponent of a strike, that would have declared the president has authority to act unilaterally only when the nation faces attack, then approved language by McCain and Chris Coons, D-Del., to add more rhetorical bite.

The McCain-Coons language noted "absent decisive changes to the present military balance of power on the ground in Syria, sufficient incentives do not yet exist" to force a political settlement of the Syrian civil war. It also reiterated that "it is the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria," urging "a comprehensive U.S. strategy" to not only degrade the regime's weapons of mass destruction but also to upgrade the military capabilities of "elements of the Syrian opposition."