Late Tuesday evening, Senate leaders reached a compromise on a resolution to authorize President Obama to use military force against Syria for up to 60 days with a one-time optional 30 day extension, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Daily Beast.
The resolution, the result of a negotiation between Senate Foreign Relations Committee heads Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), also would prohibit Obama from putting American boots on the ground, limits the mission to attacking Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities, and requires a report to Congress laying out the administration’s plan for aiding the moderate elements of the armed Syrian opposition within 30 days. The limits on the duration of the president’s authorization are in line with the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and Congress would have to grant any extension after the initial 90 day period.
The committee will hold a business meeting Wednesday at 11:30 to review and vote on the resolution to send it to the Senate floor. That means committee members will have to make up their minds before a scheduled classified briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Corker touted the resolution’s limits on the president’s war powers in a statement referring to the final draft.
“Our negotiations have led to a much narrower authorization that provides for the appropriate use of force while limiting the scope and duration of military action, prohibiting boots on the ground, and requiring the Obama administration to submit their broader plan for Syria,” Corker said.
But some GOP Senate aides saw the resolution as more of a victory for Obama and Senate Democrats. Aides noted Tuesday evening that Obama’s planned military action in Syria would likely be well over before the strategy report, pushed by Corker, is even due.
“Menendez and the Dems won here,” one senior GOP senate aide said, “The language clearly provides the president with all the authorities he requested up front, and allows him to sidestep Republican demands for a more detailed strategy on Syria.”
The resolution also compels Obama to report on the progress, cost, and impact of the military operations 10 days after they begin and every 20 days after that for as long as the mission continues.
The resolution states that Syria is “in material breach of the laws of war” after using chemical weapons against its people and that there is “clear and compelling evidence of the direct involvement of Assad regime forces” in the Aug. 21 attack in the Damascus suburbs that the U.S. says killed at least 1,429 people.
“Syria's use of weapons of mass destruction and its conduct and actions constitute a grave threat to regional stability, world peace, and the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners,” the resolution states.
The Senate’s action places it ahead of the House, which holds its first open hearing on authorizing the use of force in Syria Wednesday. House leadership has yet to draft that chamber’s version of the resolution.