The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top members drafted a resolution late Tuesday that permits Obama to order a "limited and tailored" military mission against Syria, as long as it doesn't exceed 90 days and involves no American troops on the ground for combat operations.
"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," said the committee's chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who drafted the measure with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the panel's senior Republican.
"We have an obligation to act, not witness and watch while a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in plain view," Menendez said.
Asked whether he would take action against Syria if he fails to get approval from Congress, the president said his request to lawmakers was not "an empty exercise," but that as commander in chief, "I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security."
To get a green light from Congress, Obama needs to persuade a Republican-dominated House that has opposed almost the entirety of Obama's agenda since seizing the majority more than three years ago. Several conservative Republicans and some anti-war Democrats already have come out in opposition to Obama's plans, even as Republican and Democratic House leaders gave their support to the president Tuesday.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Cal., said that while it would be important to deter the use of chemical weapons by Assad and others, there remained many unanswered questions, including what the U.S. would do if Assad retaliated to an American attack.