In a 10-7 vote, the committee moved forward with a proposal that would allow up to three months of military action against the Syrian government. The legislation would bar the deployment of combat troops, but includes language offered by Sen. John McCainJohn McCainWhite House orders intelligence report of election cyberattacks Senate votes to elevate Cyber Command in military Senate sends annual defense bill to Obama's desk MORE (R-Ariz.) emphasizing that action should target removing Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.
"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," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Carney also said the White House would "continue to work with Congress to build on this bipartisan support for a military response."
Still, the relatively tight vote in the Senate suggests the effort could come down to the wire for the White House. The same Senate panel voted 15-3 to pass a measure to arm Syrian rebels earlier this year.
The task could be even more complicated in the House, where the president will have to stitch together a coalition without the support of dovish liberals on the left and Tea Party isolationists on the right. Despite Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report Boehner compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt Boehner: 'Thank God' I wasn't in the middle of election MORE (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorTrump allies warn: No compromise on immigration Chamber of Commerce overhauls lobbying operation Laura Ingraham under consideration for White House press secretary MORE (R-Va.) announcing their support earlier this week, the president will need a sizable chunk of Democrats to vote in favor of the legislation.
Earlier Wednesday, President Obama urged Congress to act during a press conference in Stockholm, where he is traveling ahead of the G-20 economic summit in St. Petersburg.
"I do think that we have to act, because if we don’t, we are effectively saying that even though we may condemn it and issue resolutions, and so forth and so on, somebody who is not shamed by resolutions can continue to act with impunity," Obama said. "And those international norms begin to erode. And other despots and authoritarian regimes can start looking and saying, that’s something we can get away with. And that, then, calls into question other international norms and laws of war and whether those are going to be enforced."