WASHINGTON • Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin has long been a proponent of a strong role for Congress in warmaking.
In 2007, it was Durbin, a Democrat, who introduced legislation to require George W. Bush to seek congressional approval before taking any military action in Iran.
Durbin got the chance to exercise his congressional authority today in voting with others on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to give the Obama administration limited authority to bring military action in Syria in response to the regime's deployment of chemical weapons.
In the 10-7 vote, Durbin became the first senator or House member from the St. Louis region to have an official say in the war-making question Obama unexpectedly thrust into the realm of the Congress over the weekend.
“When it comes to the use of weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons, the United States must take a strong position and try to lead the world down a civilized path to avoid the use of these weapons in the future," Durbin said afterward.
Durbin said he took seriously Obama's promise not to commit ground troops.
"I have been to too many funerals and visited too many disabled veterans to ever want to see us do that again except when absolutely necessary for America’s survival," he said.
The Democratic-run committee's version would would allow up to to 90 days of military action against the Syrian government but specifically bars use of U.S. combat troops other than a rescue mission in the event of emergency.
In a committee hearing on Tuesday, Durbin pressed administration officials on their planning to limit collateral damage of civilians in a strike.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded that the administration had a "collateral damage estimate of low." He added that he would answer Durbin's question more fully only behind closed doors.