Kerry, Hagel to Testify on Syria Before Senate Committee

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-09_88cbc52f87.jpgJACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images (WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing on Syria Tuesday as lawmakers begin the process of deciding whether to authorize the use of military force against Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey are expected to testify before the committee as the White House looks to gain support for its push to strike Syria.

A senior State Department official said Kerry "will argue that the failure to take action against Assad unravels the deterrent impact of the international norm against chemical weapons use; endangers our friends and our partners along Syria's borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq; and risks emboldening Assad and his key allies -- Hezbollah and Iran -- who will see that there are no consequences for such a flagrant violation of international standards."

"Kerry will underscore that anyone who is concerned about serious issues of nonproliferation involving Iran and North Korea should support this action lest we send a message to those regimes that America's statements of consequences are without meaning," the State Department official said.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supports the use of military force in Syria.

"It is my view that the use of military force in Syria is justified and necessary given the Assad regime's reprehensible use of chemical weapons and gross violation of international law," Menendez said on Saturday when he announced the hearing.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has not decided whether he will support the president's plan, but has said he welcomes a "vigorous debate on this important authorization."

"The American people deserve to hear more from the administration about why military action in Syria is necessary, what it will achieve and how it will be sufficiently limited to keep the U.S. from being drawn further into the Syrian conflict," Corker said on Monday.

The White House is engaging in a full-court press as it tries to make its case to lawmakers.  A vote on a resolution to authorize military strikes against Syria won't occur until the week of Sept. 9, when Congress returns from recess, giving the administration a short time to lobby members of Congress for one of the most important foreign policy votes since the war in Iraq.

Obama is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders and the chairs and ranking members of national security committees at the White House Tuesday morning.  Administration officials are also conducting classified briefings for members of Congress throughout the week.

On Wednesday, Kerry is due to return to Capitol Hill to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in an open hearing and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a classified hearing with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.  Hagel and Dempsey will give a classified briefing to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

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