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Senate committee backs Obama on Syria strike

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Obama's request also received its first hearing in the House during the day, and Secretary of State John Kerry responded heatedly when Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said that Kerry, Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden all had advocated for caution in past conflicts. "Is the power of the executive branch so intoxicating that you have abandoned past caution in favor of pulling the trigger on a military response so quickly?" Duncan asked.

Kerry, who fought in Vietnam in the 1960s and voted to authorize the war against Iraq a decade ago, shot back angrily: "I volunteered to fight for my country, and that wasn't a cautious thing to do when I did it." When Duncan interrupted, the secretary of state said," I'm going to finish, congressman," and cited his support as senator for past US military action in Panama and elsewhere.

Asked about international support for Obama's threatened military strike, Kerry said the Arab League has offered to pay the cost of any US military action. He was not specific but said the offers have been "quite significant, very significant."

The administration blames a chemical weapons attack that took place on Aug. 21 on Assad's government and says more than 1,400 civilians died, including at least 400 children. Other casualty estimates are lower, and the Syrian government denies responsibility, contending rebels fighting to topple Assad were to blame.

Obama, who will cross paths with Russia President Vladimir Putin at a G-20 economic summit this week, was asked in Stockholm about the strains that their differences on Syria were putting on their countries' relations. Obama said he would continue to engage Putin, even though advances in US-Russia relations had "hit a wall."

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