Amendment votes pave the way for Senate panel's action on Syria strikes

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Wednesday afternoon to expand a use-of-force resolution by specifying the goal of U.S. military intervention in Syria should be to bolster the Free Syrian Army. 

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The successful amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMellman: Memories may be beautiful, yet… Schumer to oppose Pompeo as secretary of State Arizona GOP blocked from changing rules on filling McCain's seat MORE (R-Ariz.), a leading Senate voice on national security matters, and Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOvernight 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 Pompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel MORE (D-Del.), also states the aim of U.S. strikes should be to reduce the ability of Syrian President Bashar Assad to use chemical weapons.

The committee adopted two McCain-Coons amendments by voice vote.

One states that the U.S. strategy toward Syria should aim “to degrade the capabilities of the Assad regime to use weapons of mass destruction while upgrading the lethal and non-lethal military capabilities of vetted elements of Syrian opposition forces.” 

The second reiterated that it is U.S. policy that Assad’s departure from power, an end to violence, and a negotiated political settlement are prerequisites for regional peace and security.

The votes pave the way for the committee to pass Wednesday afternoon a resolution authorizing military force against Assad’s government.

The panel earlier voted 14-4 to table an amendment sponsored by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP anxiety grows over Trump’s Iran decision Overnight Defense: VA nominee on the ropes | White House signals it will fight for pick | Trump talks Syria with Macron | McConnell tees up Pompeo vote Schumer to oppose Pompeo as secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) expressing a sense of the Senate that the president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not pose “an actual or imminent threat” to the nation.