Congress seeks narrower authority for Obama in Syria

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WASHINGTON — Members of Congress in both parties said Sunday they would not be able to support the current draft of a resolution authorizing President Obama to launch a military strike against Syria, and top Democrats said it will have to be rewritten to limit the president's authority.
With conservative Republicans raising serious doubts about a military strike against Syria, Obama will need a strong vote of support from House Democrats to get the resolution through the House. But Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said the resolution submitted Saturday by the White House is "too broadly drafted" and that he cannot vote for "a partial blank check."
Van Hollen said the resolution would need a time limit on military action and some guarantees that American troops would not be sent into Syria before he could support it.
"The draft resolution presented by the administration does not currently meet that test," Van Hollen said. "it is too broadly drafted, it's too open ended."
Van Hollen said it is not a question whether one trusts the president, rather "this is a question now of what kind of authorization the Congress will give to the executive branch."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee also said the resolution will be rewritten to narrow the authority it gives the president, and that the administration is aware of that.
Obama said Saturday he has decided that the United States should launch an attack on Syria in response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons on opponents in a Damascus suburb Aug. 21.
The resolution Obama submitted Saturday said the president would be authorized to "use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" to deter the use or proliferation of chemical weapons in Syria or to protect the U.S. and its allied from any chemical weapons threat.
After a classified briefing on Capitol Hill Sunday, several Members of Congress told reporters they were still skeptical of the value of U.S. military intervention.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said "I'm still leaning 'no'" and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said the nation "shouldn't go to war for emotional reasons." Burgess said he would continue to consider the resolution, but at this point "I'm a 'no'."
Earlier Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said on ABC, "We're not going to lose this vote."
But Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. — who does not get to vote on passage of the resolution — said "there is a lot more intelligence that they are going to have to give the Congress before they get the kind of majority they need."
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