Draft Senate resolution on Syria would limit use of force and time frame

By Michael A. Memoli

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday will consider a newly drafted resolution to authorize military force against the Syrian government that specifically rules out any commitment of ground forces and would narrow the time frame for action to no more than 90 days.

john kerry syria1The panel’s top Democrat, Chairman Robert Menendez  of New Jersey, and top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, reached an agreement on revisions to a resolution, which was sent to Congress by the White House on Saturday and was swiftly criticized by lawmakers in both parties as too broad.

The new language calls for the use of force “in a limited and tailored manner” against military targets in Syria for the purpose of responding to the Syrian government’s use of “weapons of mass destruction,” to deter the future use of such weapons and to degrade the nation’s capacity to use them in the future.

Congress’ authorization for the use of force would expire 60 days after it was approved, but the resolution would allow the president to extend the authorization by 30 days if he notified Congress that it was necessary and if Congress does not vote to forbid an extension.

The resolution also calls for the administration to provide within 30 days to key committees an “integrated” strategy toward achieving a settlement to Syria’s civil war.

“With this agreement, we are one step closer to granting the president the authority to act in our national security interest,” Menendez said in a statement.

Corker told CNN on Tuesday that the committee may vote on the revised proposal Wednesday.

Separately, two House Democrats offered their own revised resolution that would make similar changes.

Reps. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., who worked with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., to draft the proposal, said the goal was to reflect the narrow parameters for military action that Obama has set out.

“If we’re going to pass something that allows us to meet the targeted, limited goals the president has set, the language has to be restrained and refined,” Connolly said in an interview. “This isn’t Congress restraining the president. It’s Congress codifying the words of the president himself.”

Obama said Tuesday that he would welcome changes to the initial resolution, “so long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to send a clear message to Assad degrading his capabilities to use chemical weapons, not just now but also in the future.”

The Obama administration, calling for punitive missile strikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, says that Assad’s forces used nerve gas to kill more than 1,400 Syrians, including at least 426 children, in attacks on targets just outside Damascus.

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