WASHINGTON -- The Senate resolution authorizing President Barack Obama to usemilitary force against Syria would bar American ground troops for combat operations and set a deadline for any action.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the draft resolution that the Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Wednesday.
The measure would set a time limit of 60 days and says the president could extend that for 30 days more unless Congress has a vote of disapproval.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the committee, and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican, agreed on the measure late Tuesday.
Menendez issued a statement on the agreement: “Together we have pursued a course of action that gives the President the authority he needs to deploy force in response to the Assad regime’s criminal use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, while assuring that the authorization is narrow and focused, limited in time, and assures that the Armed Forces of the United States will not be deployed for combat operations in Syria. The mass atrocity committed by the Assad regime in grave violation of international law requires American leadership. We have an obligation to act, not witness and watch while a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in plain view. With this agreement, we are one step closer to granting the President the authority to act in our national security interest.”
“Our negotiations have led to a much narrower authorization that provides for the appropriate use of force while limiting the scope and duration of military action,” said Corker in a statement, “prohibiting boots on the ground, and requiring the Obama administration to submit their broader plan for Syria. I look forward to the input from my colleagues on the committee and in Congress who will have an opportunity to weigh in on what we’ve produced. This is one of the most serious matters that comes before the Congress, so as we proceed to a potentially defining vote next week, the president and his administration must continue to vigorously make their case to the American people.”
Earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey were at a Senate committee hearing Tuesday regarding Syria.
“We all agree there will be no American boots on the ground - the president has made crystal clear, we have no intention of assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war,” Kerry said. “But this is not the time for armchair isolationism. This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter. Neither our country nor our conscience can afford the cost of silence.”
Hagel, too, reiterated that the United States is “not seeking to resolve the underlying conflict in Syria through direct military force,” arguing the actions being mulled “are tailored to respond to the use of chemical weapons. A political solution created by the Syrian people is the only way to ultimately end the violence in Syria.
“...Gen. Dempsey and I,” Hagel continued, “have assured the president that U.S. forces will be ready to act whenever the president gives the order.”
The administration says 1,429 died from the attack on Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb. Casualty estimates by other groups are far lower, and Assad’s government blames the episode on rebels who have been seeking to overthrow his government in a civil war that began over two years ago. A United Nations inspection team is awaiting lab results on tissue and soil samples it collected while in the country before completing a closely watched report.