McConnell offers no support for military strike against Syria

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMcCain returning to Senate in time for health vote Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Overnight Healthcare: Trump pressures GOP ahead of vote | McConnell urges Senate to start debate | Cornyn floats conference on House, Senate bills | Thune sees progress on Medicaid MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday did not offer support for a military strike against Syria.

In a stark contrast with GOP leaders in the House, McConnell voiced skepticism about a strike and said Obama needed to explain more to Congress and the public.

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“While we are learning more about his plans, Congress and our constituents would all benefit from knowing more about what it is he thinks needs to be done — and can be accomplished — in Syria and the region,” McConnell said in a statement after meeting with Obama at the White House.

McConnell is up for reelection in 2014 and is facing a tough Tea Party challenge from the right. 

Fellow Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulUnhappy senators complain about healthcare process Judd Gregg: For Trump, reaching out would pay off This week: ObamaCare repeal vote looms over Senate MORE opposes military intervention in Syria, something that may be weighing on McConnell.

Senate Republicans said the president needs to do a better job explaining his rationale for a military strike in the wake of chemical weapons attacks outside of Damascus.

The GOP skepticism means that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidConservative Senate candidate calls on GOP to end filibuster Ex-Reid aide: McConnell's 'original sin' was casting ObamaCare as 'partisan, socialist takeover' GOP faces growing demographic nightmare in West MORE (D-Nev.) will have to rely heavily on his own caucus to pass a resolution authorizing force.

This could force him to corral skeptical liberals like Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyDem senator: Trump's 'icky' Boy Scout speech left 'my stomach in knots' Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Dem suggests Trump focusing on Clinton, Sessions to distract from healthcare MORE (D-Conn.), who have expressed concern about another military action in the Middle East.

McConnell’s deputy, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynMcCain returning to Senate in time for health vote Overnight Healthcare: Trump pressures GOP ahead of vote | McConnell urges Senate to start debate | Cornyn floats conference on House, Senate bills | Thune sees progress on Medicaid Cornyn floats conference of House, Senate healthcare bills MORE (Texas), also voiced misgivings about a limited strike against the military forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 

 “What the president can do is to make the case to the American people. It’s important that he bring Congress in but he needs to make the case to the American people and that case hasn’t been made yet,” Cornyn told reporters.

Cornyn said a limited military strike might have a counterproductive effect.

“If it is so targeted and so limited it may have the opposite effect than the president intends,” he said. “It may be viewed as so insignificant that it actually emboldens other international bullies.”

Sen. Jim RischJim RischBipartisan push to prioritize cyber advice for small businesses Five questions after Comey’s testimony Comey delivers dramatic rebuke of Trump MORE (R-Idaho), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was “extremely reluctant” to authorize a strike on Libya.

But Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerCorker: 'We still have a lot of work to do' on Russia sanctions The Hill's 12:30 Report Iran nuclear deal still under threat — US must keep its end of the bargain MORE (Tenn.), the top ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations panel, predicted enough Republicans would support an authorization resolution to pass it through the Senate with at least 60 votes.

Corker said Obama needs to make a broader argument for why it is important to support rebel fighters in Syria and why the conflict is important to U.S. national security.

“I have a strong sense that we will be able to come to terms fairly quickly with what an authorization ought to say,” Corker said of his talks with Senate Democratic leaders over an authorization of force resolution.

This story was updated at 1:58 p.m.