President Obama cleared his first hurdle on Wednesday in his push for a military strike in Syria, as a key Senate panel voted to authorize the use of force.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7, with one senator voting present, to approve a military strike in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack last month. The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.
The vote came after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., raised objections to an earlier draft. The objections forced lawmakers to renegotiate the measure; McCain ultimately won tougher language clarifying that U.S. action would be aimed in part at changing the momentum on the ground.
The resolution specifically 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. The Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker, crafted the resolution.
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.
The measure goes next to the full Senate.
But the tougher climb for the Obama administration may be on the House side, where it’s still unclear whether a coalition exists to pass such a resolution. A testy House committee hearing Wednesday on Obama’s request for authorization showed deep divisions in that chamber over the question of getting more deeply involved in the Syrian conflict. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle questioned whether a “limited” military strike could pull the U.S. into some additional military intervention.