The White House welcomed the Senate committee’s action.
The panel acted after top administration officials pressed their case Wednesday for congressional approval of a U.S. military strike, even if lawmakers would support only a more limited authorization than the administration originally wanted.
In a news conference in Stockholm, the first leg of a trip that will take him to Russia for a Group of 20 summit, Obama made the case for a U.S. strike on Syria “limited in time and in scope” to degrade Assad’s military capabilities and deter him from resorting to chemical weapons again in his brutal war, now in its third year, against rebels seeking his ouster.
“I didn’t set a red line,” Obama said in response to a question. “The world set a red line” when it declared chemical weapons “abhorrent” and passed a treaty forbidding them. “Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty.”
In a statement after Wednesday’s vote, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “We commend the Senate for moving swiftly and for working across party lines on behalf of our national security. We believe America is stronger when the President and Congress work together. The military action authorized in the resolution would uphold America’s national security interests by degrading Assad’s chemical weapons capability and deterring the future use of these weapons, even as we pursue a broader strategy of strengthening the opposition to hasten a political transition in Syria.”
The administration will keep working with Congress “to build on this bipartisan support for a military response that is narrowly tailored” to enforce the ban on chemical weapons attacks but also sufficient to protect U.S. national security interests, Carney said.
After classified, closed-doors hearings Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began debating a new draft of a resolution on the use of force in Syria in response to a reported chemical weapons attack last month that killed more than 1,400 people.
But the hearing to mark up the resolution was delayed for more than two hours amid disagreements among senators over its wording. Among those initially opposed to the Senate committee’s draft was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading GOP voice on national security issues, who wanted broader U.S. action against Syria, the Associated Press reported.
The Senate committee’s version, released late Tuesday by a bipartisan group of senators, would permit up to 90 days of military action against the Syrian government and bar the deployment of U.S. combat troops in Syria, while allowing a small rescue mission in the event of an emergency. The White House also would be required within 30 days of enactment of the resolution to send lawmakers a plan for a diplomatic solution to end the violence in Syria.