Senate panel approves resolution authorizing use of force in Syria

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday voted to authorize President Barack Obama to take military action in Syria.

The resolution to authorize the use of force passed 10-7, with senators from both parties voting for and against the measure.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who had suggested during a hearing Tuesday that he wanted additional evidence of the use of chemical weapons from United Nations inspectors -- voted "present," saying in a statement that he needed more time to review classified intelligence materials before deciding whether force should be used.

The vote comes four days after Obama asked Congress to approve a military strike against Syria in retaliation for a sarin gas attack that the administration says killed more than 1,400 people outside Damascus.

The committee's action is the first formal step toward congressional approval.

The Senate committee put more limits on a possible action than the president had initially requested. Senators voted to limit such an action to 60 days, though Obama could ask for an additional 30 days. The measure also prohibits using American troops for ground combat.

In a statement, White House press secretary Jay Carney praised the Senate for "moving swiftly" on the resolution.

"We will continue to work with Congress to build on this bipartisan support for a military response that is narrowly tailored to enforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and sufficient to protect the national security interests of the United States of America," he said. 

The vote didn't split along party lines, instead drawing unusual coalitions of members both for and against taking action. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, both considered possible 2016 presidential contenders, both voted "no" -- as did more liberal Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Tom Udall.

Rubio said that - unlike Paul and others in the GOP who are skeptical of almost all U.S. intervention abroad - he believes that the United States should have aided the Syrian rebels earlier in the conflict.

Despite voting with Paul, he drew a stark line between libertarian-leaning non-interventionists and himself.

"If we follow the advice of those who seek to disengage us from global issues in the long run we will pay a terrible price," he said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., voted for the resolution after adding two amendments to clarify that the goal of U.S. action was to change the momentum for rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The vote's success represents a careful balancing act between those who are worried about authorizing unlimited war and hawkish senators who think the U.S. should go beyond just limited strikes.

Now the debate moves to the full Senate, which convenes Monday, Sept. 9. A vote is expected that week.