Policy & Strategy

Senate to narrow Syria resolution

Members of the Senate plan to narrow President Obama’s authorization request for military action in Syria, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Sunday.

Leahy told reporters about the planned rewrite of the resolution after attending a classified intelligence briefing on Sunday at the Capitol.

“At the stakeout [Leahy] said that there will be new language drafted in the Senate for consideration, that the administration understands that, and that the current version is too broad,” said a spokesman for Leahy.

{mosads}Several members of Congress have expressed concerns that the resolution from the White House is overly broad, and those concerns persisted after the briefing on Sunday with senior administration officials that was intended to build support for military action.

A House Republican who led the calls for congressional authorization for Syria strikes said the language in the White House resolution is at odds with Obama’s promise to pursue limited action.

“It is a broad document,” Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) told reporters after attending a classified administration intelligence briefing at the Capitol.

“And given the specificity with which the president has been speaking on this, it is a little difficult to reconcile what he has asked for in the statements that he has been making with the document that is now before us,” he said.

Rigell spearheaded a letter last week warning Obama not to attack Syria without seeking congressional approval first.

The president on Saturday announced he would seek authorization from Congress to use force in Syria, slamming the brakes on what had been a weeklong buildup toward a likely attack.

After Obama’s surprise announcement in the Rose Garden, the White House quickly sent a draft resolution to Congress that would authorize military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A number of lawmakers have complained that the document – which gives Obama permission to use “necessary and appropriate” force – is too broad and open-ended.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said on Sunday that he considered the draft Syria resolution to be “very, very broad.”

Lewis said he needs to know more from the Obama administration on the duration and type of strikes it plans before deciding whether he can support U.S. military intervention.

A top House Democrat said lawmakers want to ensure that the authorization is “targeted.”

“We want to make sure that any authorization is structured, is framed so that it is very clear that we are talking about a targeted, discrete response to the use of chemical weapons,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Becerra said the approach is “evolving” as more information comes in about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. He noted that just Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry disclosed that administration officials believe sarin gas was used in the alleged Aug. 21 chemical attack outside Damascus.

“We are seeing more information come in, and as that information comes in, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see the character of the authorization change to match the new facts on the ground,” Becerra told reporters in the Capitol.

And according to NBC’s Kasie Hunt, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called the draft “too open ended,” and said “there should be some expiration date.”

Sheldon Alberts and Alexandra Jaffe contributed.

Tags John Kerry Patrick Leahy Scott Rigell Xavier Becerra

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