Obama's request to strike Syria passes first test in Senate

A Senate panel voted 10-7 Wednesday in favor of a resolution authorizing military force against Syria, setting up a final Senate vote as early as next week. [WATCH VIDEO]

Seven Democrats and three Republicans backed the measure, while five Republicans and two Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opposed it.

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Approval by the panel was expected, but the tight vote suggests a final vote in the Senate could be close. Earlier this year, the panel had voted 15-3 to arm Syrian rebels.

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The Senate is seen as the easier chamber for President Obama to win authorization for a military strike against Syria.

In the House, he appears to face deeper rank-and-file opposition, and at a House hearing on Wednesday many more lawmakers voiced opposition to a strike than supported one.

Before its final vote, the Senate panel accepted an amendment drafted by McCain and Coons that specified that the goal of U.S. military intervention in Syria should be to bolster the Free Syrian Army.

McCain had warned earlier that he could oppose a resolution that did not put an emphasis on ending the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The resolution also states that the aim of U.S. strikes should be to reduce Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons.

Menendez indicated he had been under pressure to create a resolution that did not get the U.S. into a broader mission in Syria, but that did ensure Assad would not use chemical weapons again.

Menendez argued the panel’s final product “struck the right balance” between those goals.

Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said the measure “narrowly defined” what the U.S. could do in Syria militarily. An initial resolution sent to Capitol Hill by the Obama administration was criticized by Democrats for being far too broad.

Coons argued the risk of doing nothing in Syria outweighed the risk that the U.S. would wind up getting further drawn into the conflict.

Assad “will use these weapons again, and we will be less safe,” he said.

Udall, however, said Wednesday's vote put the nation on the wrong path. He argued the risk of an escalation was too great for the U.S. to get involved.

McCain, in contrast, chastised some colleagues for “micromanaging” the White House's battle plans.

“We cannot tell the president what tactics to employ” on the battlefield, McCain said.

One amendment rejected by the panel, which was offered by Udall, would have only allowed U.S. naval forces to be used in an attack against Syria.

The New Mexico Democrat also proposed language blocking American warplanes from entering Syrian airspace.

“If we go down this road, we are going to be running the [operation] from here,” McCain said.

— This story was posted at 3:44 p.m. and updated at 5:07 p.m.