WASHINGTON — A Senate panel voted to give President Barack Obama the authority to use military force against Syria in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack.
The vote Wednesday was 10-7, with one senator voting present. The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.
The resolution would permit Obama to order a limited military mission against Syria, as long as it doesn’t exceed 90 days and involves no American troops on the ground for combat operations.
Voting “yes” on the resolution were Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Chris Coons (Del.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Tim Kaine (Va.); as well as Republicans Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Voting “no” were Democrats Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.); as well as Republicans James Risch (Idaho), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), and big names Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.).
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) voted present.
The Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker, crafted the resolution.
McCain’s vote was only assured after he and Coons introduced an amendment that broadened the objective of the US mission to “change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria,” according to the US news outlet Business Insider.
The amendment added specifies that the US’s strategy should aim to degrade the Assad regime’s capabilities to use chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, while at the same time upgrading the “lethal and non-lethal capabilities” of “vetted” groups within the Syrian opposition.
The vote marked the first time lawmakers have voted to authorize military action since the October 2002 votes giving President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq.
Debate continued at a lengthy House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday on the use of force in Syria, with Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey answering lawmakers’ questions.
Kerry responded heatedly when Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said that Kerry, Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden all had advocated for caution in past conflicts. “Is the power of the executive branch so intoxicating that you have abandoned past caution in favor of pulling the trigger on a military response so quickly?” Duncan asked.
Kerry, who fought in Vietnam in the 1960s and voted to authorize the war against Iraq a decade ago, shot back angrily: “I volunteered to fight for my country, and that wasn’t a cautious thing to do when I did it.” When Duncan interrupted, the secretary of state said,” I’m going to finish, congressman,” and cited his support as senator for past US military action in Panama and elsewhere.
Asked about international support for Obama’s threatened military strike, Kerry said the Arab League has offered to pay the cost of any US military action. He was not specific but said the offers have been “quite significant, very significant.”