Senate GOP could merge dueling resolutions on Syria

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) will discuss combining a new Syria resolution introduced by himself and Sen. John McCainJohn McCainFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday with an existing bill sponsored by Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerPolicymakers forget duty to protect taxpayers from financial failures Overnight Defense: GOP chairman moves ahead with 0B defense bill | Lawmakers eye 355 ship navy | Senate panel seeks answers on shoot down of Syrian jet Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel MORE (R-Tenn.) 

Corker's bill, unveiled last Thursday, calls upon the White House to provide a report on all known opposition groups "both independent and state-sponsored" fighting "directly or indirectly" against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. 

The report will also include a comprehensive assessment of the "size and security of conventional and non-conventional weapons stockpiles" in Syria, according to the Corker legislation. 

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That bill overlaps significantly with many of the mandates included in the McCain-Lieberman resolution, the Connecticut Independent told reporters on Wednesday. 

Merging the two initiatives into a joint resolution would increase the chances of passage once the proposal is brought to the Senate floor, according to Lieberman. 

Discussion over combining the two efforts coincides with Assad's agreement to a U.N.-mandated cease fire deal, which would let the Syrian strongman remain in power. 

However, McCain said Wednesday Assad was merely "playing for time" by agreeing to the U.N. plan, time he can use to wipe out the resistance. 

"Facts on the ground [are clear] . . . the momentum is on the side of Bashar al-Assad," McCain said. 

The McCain-Lieberman resolution urges the White House and U.S. allies in the region to "provide the people of Syria with the means to defend themselves" against Assad's brutal crackdown against rebel forces. 

That support would likely come in the form of weapons and ammunition for anti-Assad forces. McCain declined to comment on what specific weapons could shipped to rebel troops in the country. 

But the Arizona Republicans said those arms could be funneled through the same lines that the "non-lethal" supplies being sent to Syria by the United States and Turkey. 

One element that was notably missing from the McCain-Lieberman resolution was the call for airstrikes against Assad's forces. 

McCain has long advocated the use of U.S. airpower to counter the heavy weapons Assad's troops were using against the rebels. 

Anti-government troops were fighting "tanks and artillery [with] AK-47s" McCain said during Wednesday's press conference. 

However, Lieberman said it was decided to exclude the airstrikes demand from the resolution, fearing it would sap bipartisan support for the legislation among rank-and-file senators. 

McCain admitted the possibility that arms meant for Syrian rebels could end up in the hands of terror groups like al Qaeda "is something we have to worry about." 

However, leaving anti-Assad forces to fend for themselves only makes them more succeptible to al Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups. 

Those groups have already reportedly infiltrated the rebels' ranks. "They will have been there [already] when we are not," Lieberman added.