WASHINGTON –- A divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted narrowly Wednesday to authorize a punitive U.S. strike against Syria, opening the way for a vote in the full Senate next week.
The vote was 10 to 7, with Democrats and Republicans on each side. Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) supported the measure, as did ranking member Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has repeatedly urged President Obama to do more to aid the Syrian opposition.
Opponents included conservative Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and liberals Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who voted for the resolution, said it would send a clear message to Assad. "This won't be a limited, but a powerful response," he said.
The resolution, which was shaped by Menendez and Corker, called for a more limited use of force than Obama had proposed Saturday, when he announced that he would seek congressional blessing to strike Syria. But it also incorporated language from McCain calling for the United States to seek to shift the balance on the battlefield against Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.
The United States and other governments have accused Assad's military of launching a chemical weapons attack Aug. 21 on Damascus suburbs. Assad has denied that his forces were involved.
Several senators, including Corker, Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and James Risch (R-Idaho), predicted that the resolution would be adopted by the full Senate. But there were also signs Wednesday that the administration and its supporters face a tough slog in the House.
At a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, members of both parties complained that the plan risked deeper U.S. involvement in the war without a strategic payoff.
"Americans are skeptical of getting near a conflict that, as one witness has noted, is fueled by historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues," said Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
[For the Record, 2:02 p.m. PST Sept. 4: An earlier version of this post identified Royce as a Democrat. His party affilitation has since been corrected.]