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Senate Panel Authorizes Force Against Syria

Dick Durbin

Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill. arrives for a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, for senators with Secretary of State John Kerry and intelligence officials as President Barack Obama seeks congressional authorization for military intervention in Syria. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The Senate Foreign Relations committee voted Wednesday to give President Barack Obama the authority to use military force against Syria.

The U.S. accuses the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its own people. The panel vote included the support of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Durbin said he hopes the committee’s vote sends a strong message that Congress is resolute in stopping the spread of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

“If the United States did not take this leadership role, I don’t know who would,” Durbin said. “I do want to say, I take very seriously the president’s promise that we will not be putting boots on the ground in Syria.”

The vote marked the first time lawmakers have authorized military action since the invasion of Iraq in 2002, which Durbin did not support.

As the Senate committee took up the Syria plan, the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard from President Obama’s top national security aides. During that hearing, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) pulled out a picture of Syrian children, and he talked about the harmful effects of sarin gas.

“Can we ban all artillery shells? We can’t. Can we ban all war? We can’t,” Kinzinger said. “But if we can stand up and say that chemical weapons have no place in this world and we can do something about it, god help us if we don’t.”

Meanwhile, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), who does not sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the U.S. should not take the lead on Syria since it is an international issue. Shimkus said he will oppose President Obama's proposal for a strategic strike on Syria.

"Does this threaten our neighbors? Does this threaten our security? I would argue no," Shimkus said Thursday. "And I would argue that if we intervene, we may be at greater risk. When we attack a sovereign country, regardless of the reason, have we then – in essence – declared war?”

Shimkus said the international community – including the United Nations and the European Union – should be leading this response, not one particular nation.

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) said in a Facebook post that he does not believe President Obama or his administration has made the case for a strike on Syria.

"If the President wants the support of Congress, and more importantly the American people," Davis said. "He must immediately lay out a compelling case and convince all of us why it is important for military action in Syria.

The full House and Senate are expected to debate proposals for military action next week.