Hagel, Kerry to Testify on Syria Before Senate Committee

Administration tries to make case for military action.

ByABC News
September 2, 2013, 11:13 PM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2013— -- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing on Syria today 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."

Syria Prepares for Possible Airstrikes: See the Photos

"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 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 Monday.

Sen. John McCain, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with President Obama and National Security Advisor Susan Rice at the White House on Monday. McCain, who wants the president to conduct more than just isolated military strikes, could be an ally for the president as he tries to gather votes to authorize the use of force.

RELATED: Rejecting Syria Strike Would Be 'Catastrophic,' McCain Says

"If the Congress were to reject a resolution like this after the President of the United States has already committed to action, the consequences would be catastrophic in that the credibility of this country, with friends and adversaries alike, would be shredded and there would be, not only implications for this presidency, but for future presidencies as well," McCain said 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 was scheduled to meet with congressional leaders and the chairs and ranking members of national security meetings at the White House this 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.

ABC News' Dana Hughes and Shushannah Walshe contributed to this report.