A compromise plan between members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations would limit Obama's military action in Syria to 60 days, with a possible 30-day extension. That effectively sidelines the administration's draft legislation for military action — seen as too broad by both parties, including many members of the committee — in favor of a more narrow window of scope and opportunity.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican ranking member, supports a limited Syrian intervention, as does the committee Chair Bob Menendez. After a hearing today with Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, it looks like the committee members would like to get some potentially vote-getting details and limitations down on paper. The new draft legislation reflects that. In a statement, Corker said:
“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... This is one of the most serious matters that comes before the Congress, so as we proceed to a potentially defining vote next week, the president and his administration must continue to vigorously make their case to the American people.”
The resolution gives Obama limited power "to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria, only," in order to "deter" and "degrade" Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's capacity to use chemical weapons in the future. It goes on, after barring the president from using military force to try and topple al-Assad, to require the U.S. to report on efforts to aid "vetted" opposition groups in the country.
And, while it doesn't totally shut it down, the resolution also addresses a loophole opened up (hypothetically) by Secretary of State John Kerry this afternoon concerning the use of "boots on the ground" in Syria in some situations: "The authority granted in section 2 does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations," it reads. Politico notes that this could allow the president to authorize special forces or rescue operations on the ground.
Of course, the president believes, and his administration has repeatedly argued, that he has the authority to use force in Syria even without a congressional authorization.
Here's the full draft resolution:
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