Congress has already considered Syrian intervention this year

House of Representatives

The House has already considered the question of intervention in Syria.

The House-passed Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Authorization bill required the Pentagon to brief the Armed Services Committees on options in Syria and resources required to execute them. It also expressed a  Sense of Congress that President Obama’s publicly stated red lines must be enforced.

The President of the United States should fully consider all courses of action to reinforce his stated ‘‘redline’’ regarding the use of chemical weapons.

Chairman McKeon’s (D-CA) stated his understanding that unilateral response to the Syrian crisis is not in America’s best interest, so the bill authorized the armed forces to train and equip regional partners for weapons of mass destruction response.   [Section 1251 (p.276)]

On June 14, the  House rejected 123-301 a Gibson (R-NY) – Garamendi (D-CA) amendment to eliminate the bill’s language on Syria. Republicans voted 62-168 for the amendment while Democrats split 61-133.

During consideration of the Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Appropriations Bill on July 24, the House approved by voice vote a  Radel (R-FL) amendment prohibiting the use of any funds with respect to military action in Syria to the extent such action would be inconsistent with the War Powers Resolution.

Neither bill has become law.

Senate

The Senate has not been as vocal on the issue.

On May 21, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved 15-3  a bill (S 960) sponsored by Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to provide U.S. weapons to vetted Syrian rebels. The measure did not permit the use of U.S. military force in Syria.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in the Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Authorization Bill that has yet to go to the Senate floor,  says in Section 1302 (p. 205 of the report):

The resulting cancellation of funds ($79.3 million)[from Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction Activities] transfers $62.3 million to the Proliferation Prevention Program for Middle East co-operative threat reduction activities to prevent and detect acquisition, proliferation, and use of Syria’s chemical weapons, weapons usable and related materials, equipment or means of delivery, and knowledge. This activity will continue partnerships with Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon. $13.0 million is transferred to Chemical Weapons Eliminations—Libya/Middle East to prepare for potential requirements in Syria if the U.S. Government has a Syrian partner with whom to work to potentially secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.