Durbin: 'Shadow' of Iraq loomed large over Syria vote

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

Chairman Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezLawmakers target horse meat trade Senators, staff get approval to testify in Menendez corruption trial Trump admin not opposed to new war authorization MORE (D-N.J.) said the measure would be sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states THE MEMO: Trump's base cheers attacks on McConnell It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (D-Nev.) on Monday.

Wednesday's vote is the first major hurdle cleared by the White House in its effort to secure congressional approval for military action in Syria. 

Panel member and Senate Majority Whip Richard DurbinDick DurbinOPINION | DACA helps people achieve the American dream, don't take it away Immigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP 'Dreamers' deadline looms for Trump MORE (D-Ill.) said it was clear the "shadow" of lawmakers' vote authorizing the Iraq hung heavy over the panel's Wednesday vote. 

"We paid a bitter, heavy price for that," he said of the Iraq War's toll on the United States. 

The impact of that conflict, he said, "is what is behind the American people's reluctance" to back the White House's plans to attack regime targets in Syria. 

A Sept. 3 ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 59 percent are against a missile strike in Syria, with only 36 percent saying they support the kind of action that the Obama administration says will harm Syrian military capabilities.

Memories of the faulty intelligence used to make the case for the Iraq War eventually sunk efforts by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to secure support for military action from the British Parliament. 

But after Wednesday's vote, Durbin sought to draw a distinct line between the run-up to the Iraq War and the administration's push for action in Syria. 

"There is a clear difference" between the authorization the White House is seeking for Syria and the U.S. military commitment sought by former President George W. Bush for Iraq, he said. 

"There is a moral component here that is critically important" regarding the need to take action in Syria, according to the Illinois Democrat.  

"We [must] try to be a leader in this world ... when it comes to civil conduct," particularly when it comes to the use of chemical weapons, Durbin added. 

Durbin's comments echo those by Obama, who has repeatedly claimed military action in Syria would not lead the U.S. back down the path to war. 

“This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan,” Obama said in remarks aimed at a wary Congress and American public.

“It is proportional. It is limited. It does not involve boots on the ground,” he added during a meeting with top congressional leaders at the White House, regarding possible Syrian operations. 

But some lawmakers, such as panel member Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallWhat veterans have to lose in Trump’s national monument review Overnight Energy: House passes Russia sanctions deal with oil, gas fix Dem bill would ban controversial pesticide MORE (D-N.M.), remain unconvinced by the administration's efforts to play down the threat of possible U.S. escalation in Syria.  

Udall, who voted against the Syria resolution on Wednesday, said the authorization put the nation on the wrong path. He argued the risk of an escalation was too great for the U.S. to get involved.

In response, 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.

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