Obama action against Libya weighs on Syria debate

The Obama administration's forceful intervention in Libya last year is making Republicans think twice about adopting even a symbolic stance against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The White House relied in part on a Senate resolution denouncing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's alleged crimes to justify military action against the regime last year. As the Senate weighs a resolution calling for democratic regime change in Syria, some Republicans are now raising concerns the Obama administration will use it as a backdoor for another attack.

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"If we want to authorize military action, let's do that," Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (R-Tenn.) said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee mark-up of the resolution Thursday. "What I don't want us to do is in a fashion that's not debated to pass a resolution on the floor that allows the administration to do that."

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) raised similar concerns.

"I have the same concerns," he said. "We know how things work."

The panel ended up endorsing the resolution, 13-6, with five Republicans and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) voting against.

Committee chairman John KerryJohn Forbes KerryFeehery: Oprah Dem presidential bid unlikely Dem hopefuls flock to Iowa Change in Iran will only come from its people — not the United States MORE (D-Mass.) said the situation in Syria was quickly spiraling out of control and the U.S. needed to make its voice heard.

"I think the prospects of a full-fledged civil war are obviously very real," he said.

Kerry said he shared his Republican colleagues' concerns about a backdoor authorization for military action.

"I agree with that," he said. "It should not be."

The resolution, he vowed, wouldn't authorize the administration to broaden its current policy of financial sanctions against Assad and aiding Syrian rebels with communications tools and medical aid.

"There's no growing of the pie," Kerry said. "It's limited to current efforts."

Some Republicans still felt things are going too fast.

"I want to help the right guys," said Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischGovernment needs to help small businesses follow regulations McConnell works to salvage tax bill The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (R-Idaho). "I just don't know who the right guys are, and we're certainly not identifying them here."