A Senate panel has voted to approve a resolution giving President Obama the authority to carry out punitive strikes against Syria for its use of chemical weapons.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the authorization by a 10-7 vote, with one senator voting present. The measure must be passed by a vote of the full Senate to come into force. The vote is likely to take place next week.
The vote marks the first time lawmakers have voted to authorize military action since the October 2002 vote giving President George W. Bush authority to invade Iraq.
The authorization was crafted by the committee's top lawmakers — Democratic Chairman Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee.
Early Wednesday during the debate, Secretary of State John Kerry told the committee: "We are not asking America to go to war."
He later told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that should Syrian President Bashar Assad be "arrogant and foolish enough to retaliate," the U.S. has "ample ways to make him regret that decision without going to war."
As we reported earlier, the resolution on the use of force against Syria has divided Republicans and Democrats alike, with Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky representing differing viewpoints in the GOP.
The New York Times says the panel "struggled to draft the resolution," with Menendez and Corker:
"[pressing] ... forward with a resolution limiting the duration and nature of military strikes, while Mr. McCain demanded more — not less — latitude for the military to inflict damage on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
"In the afternoon, the balance of power appeared to lie with the interventionists. The panel set aside a resolution by Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican leading the opposition to the strikes, that would have declared that the president has authority to act unilaterally only when the nation faces attack, then approved language by Mr. McCain and Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, to toughen the resolution."