By Alexander Bolton - 09/03/13 05:33 PM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMcConnell: Holder ‘one of the worst’ attorneys general ever McConnell: Trump ‘will not change the Republican Party’ Rankings: Trump’s top 10 VP picks MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday did not offer support for a military strike against Syria.
In a stark contrast with GOP leaders in the House, McConnell voiced skepticism about a strike and said Obama needed to explain more to Congress and the public.
McConnell is up for reelection in 2014 and is facing a tough Tea Party challenge from the right.
Fellow Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulLibertarian ticket will get super-PAC support Overnight Energy: Trump outlines 'America First' energy plan in North Dakota Overnight Regulation: GOP slams new Obama education rules MORE opposes military intervention in Syria, something that may be weighing on McConnell.
Senate Republicans said the president needs to do a better job explaining his rationale for a military strike in the wake of chemical weapons attacks outside of Damascus.
The GOP skepticism means that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidHillary's ObamaCare problem Sanders tests Wasserman Schultz Nearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo MORE (D-Nev.) will have to rely heavily on his own caucus to pass a resolution authorizing force.
This could force him to corral skeptical liberals like Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyDems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals Dem senators call for sanctions on Congo Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left MORE (D-Conn.), who have expressed concern about another military action in the Middle East.
McConnell’s deputy, Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynClinton email headache is about to get worse Overnight Tech: House GOP launches probe into phone, internet subsidies Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill MORE (Texas), also voiced misgivings about a limited strike against the military forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“What the president can do is to make the case to the American people. It’s important that he bring Congress in but he needs to make the case to the American people and that case hasn’t been made yet,” Cornyn told reporters.
Cornyn said a limited military strike might have a counterproductive effect.
“If it is so targeted and so limited it may have the opposite effect than the president intends,” he said. “It may be viewed as so insignificant that it actually emboldens other international bullies.”
Sen. Jim RischJim RischOvernight Finance: Path clears for Puerto Rico bill | GOP senator casts doubt on IRS impeachment | Senate approves .1B for Zika Senate passes broad spending bill with .1B in Zika funds Sen. Cory Gardner endorses Cruz MORE (R-Idaho), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was “extremely reluctant” to authorize a strike on Libya.
But Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerRankings: Trump’s top 10 VP picks Rubio: 'Maybe' would run for Senate seat if 'good friend' wasn't McConnell-allied group: We'll back Rubio if he runs for reelection MORE (Tenn.), the top ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations panel, predicted enough Republicans would support an authorization resolution to pass it through the Senate with at least 60 votes.
Corker said Obama needs to make a broader argument for why it is important to support rebel fighters in Syria and why the conflict is important to U.S. national security.
“I have a strong sense that we will be able to come to terms fairly quickly with what an authorization ought to say,” Corker said of his talks with Senate Democratic leaders over an authorization of force resolution.
This story was updated at 1:58 p.m.