Senate Push to Help Syria Brings Rubio, Boxer Together

The Casey-Rubio resolution also calls for greater U.S. cooperation with Turkey and members of the Arab League and EU in crafting a "robust humanitarian assistance" strategy that includes establishing safe havens along the borders.

"The regime's brutal violence has torn the country apart, and threatens to destabilize the entire region," said Casey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. "The international community can and should do more to support the people of Syria during this terrible hour in their history."

Co-sponsors on the resolution's introduction were Boxer and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). Since then, Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) have also signed on.

Last month, Gillibrand introduced the Syria Human Rights Accountability Act of 2012 along with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a sanctions bill that prohibits the sale of technology or weapons to Syria, by any companies seeking to do business with the United States, that would be used for censorship or human rights abuses in the country.

"The tough sanctions I introduced to crack down on Syria’s energy sector which funds the development of nuclear weapons and supports terrorists isn’t enough," Gillibrand said then in reference to her August bill, the Syria Sanctions Act of 2011. "This new bill is an important step to end the bloodshed by the Syrian government and provide the Syrian people with tools needed to take back their own country.”

The only other co-sponsor on the bill is Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

In the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced the Syria Freedom Support Act with New York Democrat Eliot Engel in an effort to strengthen existing sanctions against Damascus and target the regime's "Achilles heel -- its energy sector." The bill was placed on the Union Calendar, which schedules bills involving financial issues.

Ros-Lehtinen's spokesman told me that she intends to mark up the bill in committee in the coming weeks.

Rubio and Casey also joined a resolution effort helmed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) last May, which had 26 co-sponsors, got stuck in the Foreign Relations Committee and "urges the United Nations Human Rights Council to swiftly implement United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution S-16/1 and to ensure that the international investigation into violations by the Government of Syria of international human rights law called for in the resolution is undertaken immediately; and reinforce the crucial need for the United Nations General Assembly to reject Syria's candidacy for membership on the Human Rights Council and terminate the consideration of Syria's candidacy."

The new resolution commends the Arab League efforts "to bring about a peaceful resolution in Syria," but offers no praise for and makes no requests of the United Nations.