Senate: Don’t Use U.S. Troops
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate resolution authorizing President Barack Obama to use military force against Syria would bar American ground troops for combat operations and set a deadline for any action.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the draft resolution that the Foreign Relations Committee will vote on today.
The measure would set a time limit of 60 days and says the president could extend that for 30 days more unless Congress has a vote of disapproval.
Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the committee, and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican, agreed on the measure late Tuesday.
The proposal surfaced as Obama gained ground in his drive for congressional backing of a military strike against Syria, winning critical support from House Speaker John Boehner.
“You’re probably going to win” Congress’ backing, Rand Paul of Kentucky, a conservative senator and likely opponent of the measure, conceded in a late-afternoon exchange with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Boehner emerged from a meeting at the White House and said the United States has “enemies around the world that need to understand that we’re not going to tolerate this type of behavior. We also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that America will be there and stand up when it’s necessary.”
“There’s no problem in our having the language that has zero capacity for American troops on the ground,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, one of three senior officials to make the case for military intervention at the committee’s hearing.
Kerry had said earlier in the hearing that he’d prefer not to have such language, hypothesizing the potential need for sending ground troops “in the event Syria imploded” or to prevent its chemical weapons cache from falling into the hands of a terrorist organization.
“President Obama is not asking America to go to war,” Kerry said in a strongly worded opening statement. He added, “This is not the time for armchair isolationism. This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter.”
Obama said earlier in the day he was open to revisions in the relatively broad request the White House made over the weekend. He expressed confidence Congress would respond to his call for support and said Assad’s action “poses a serious national security threat to the United States and to the region.”
The administration says 1,429 died from the attack on Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb. Casualty estimates by other groups are far lower, and Assad’s government blames the episode on rebels who have been seeking to overthrow his government in a civil war that began over two years ago. A United Nations inspection team is awaiting lab results on tissue and soil samples it collected while in the country before completing a closely watched report.
The president met top lawmakers at the White House before embarking on an overseas trip to Sweden and Russia, leaving the principal lobbying at home for the next few days to Vice President Joe Biden and other members of his administration.