McConnell offers no support for military strike against Syria

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRand's reversal advances Pompeo After Dems stood against Pompeo, Senate’s confirmation process needs a revamp Overnight Cybersecurity: Senators eye path forward on election security bill | Facebook isn't winning over privacy advocates | New hacks target health care 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 PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand's reversal advances Pompeo Overnight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit After Dems stood against Pompeo, Senate’s confirmation process needs a revamp 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 Mason ReidAfter Dems stood against Pompeo, Senate’s confirmation process needs a revamp GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination 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 MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Cybersecurity: Senators want info on 'stingray' surveillance in DC | Bills to secure energy infrastructure advance | GOP lawmaker offers cyber deterrence bill Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan Dems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting MORE (D-Conn.), who have expressed concern about another military action in the Middle East.

McConnell’s deputy, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynRand's reversal advances Pompeo Joe Scarborough predicts Trump won't run in 2020 Republicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller 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 RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischChanging the rules won't fix congressional dysfunction Senate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump Overnight Health Care: FDA takes first step to cut nicotine levels in cigarettes | Trump's health chief backs official at center of abortion fight | Trump opioid plan will reportedly include death penalty for some drug dealers 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 CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRand's reversal advances Pompeo Overnight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit Pompeo headed for confirmation after surprise panel vote 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.