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 CorkerPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters 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 KerryRubio wants DOJ to find out if Kerry broke law by meeting with Iranians Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation Pompeo doubles down on criticism of Kerry: The Iran deal failed, 'let it go' 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 RischMcCain’s death marks decline of Trump’s GOP Senate critics Overnight Health Care: Senate approves massive bill including health spending | Bill includes drug pricing measure | Move to block Planned Parenthood funding fails Overnight Defense: Senate passes massive defense, domestic spending bill | Duncan Hunter to step down from committees | Pompeo names North Korea envoy MORE (R-Idaho). "I just don't know who the right guys are, and we're certainly not identifying them here."