By Alexander Bolton - 09/03/13 05:33 PM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnell78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto Senate passes funding bill to avoid shutdown Conservative groups deliver last-minute warning to GOP on spending bill 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.
McConnell is up for reelection in 2014 and is facing a tough Tea Party challenge from the right.
Fellow Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulLawmaker seeks to investigate Obama's foreign tax compliance law Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears GOP senators hit FBI on early probe of NY bombing suspect 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 ReidOvernight Defense: Congress overrides Obama 9/11 veto | Pentagon breathes easy after funding deal | More troops heading to Iraq 78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto Giuliani whacks Kaine for missing 9/11 veto vote 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 MurphyCould Snapchat be the digital bridge to younger voters? Saudi skeptics gain strength in Congress Dems to McConnell: Bring up Trump tax bill MORE (D-Conn.), who have expressed concern about another military action in the Middle East.
McConnell’s deputy, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn Cornyn78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override Cornyn: White House 'MIA' during 9/11 debate 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 RischGOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea Research: Infrastructure systems easy to hack, a little slow to patch Republicans root for Pence as VP 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 CorkerSenators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override Cornyn: White House 'MIA' during 9/11 debate White House lashes out at 'embarrassing' Senate veto override 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.