(CNN) – Sen. Jeff Sessions – a Republican who has yet to say whether he'll approve President Barack Obama's plan for military strikes in Syria – said at a town hall Friday that the situation in the conflict-torn nation would be far different if George W. Bush was still in the White House.
Speaking to tea party activists outside Montgomery, Sessions said Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad would have heeded calls from the former Republican commander-in-chief to not use chemical weapons on his people.
"If President Bush had told Bashar Assad, 'You don't use chemical weapons or you are going to be sorry. We are coming after you, this will be a consequence you will not want to bear,' I don't believe he would have used them," Sessions said, adding that he didn't "mean to be partisan about it."
Obama and administration officials say samples from Syria prove Assad used chemical weapons on August 21, killing more than 1,400 people. He's been pressing lawmakers to support his plan for missile strikes to punish Assad's regime for the attack, though members of both parties have expressed deep skepticism at the plan.
Sessions said on Friday, however, that the administration was exaggerating the potential consequences of not taking action against Assad.
"(Secretary of State John Kerry) overstated a number of things," he said. "First he says we have got to respond basically any time anybody violates some treaty and we have got to go to war and use some military action. That is not so. He basically said you have got to support us or the country will be damaged and I don't agree with that."
Sessions did not say for sure what his vote would be on authorizing the use of force in Syria.
Tea party members attending the event appeared torn on American intervention in Syria, though most were wary about getting involved in another conflict overseas. One woman, who said she was a nurse who'd been trained in responding to chemical incidents, said she was doubtful that missile strikes alone could be an effective enough way to prevent another sarin attack.
"We put missiles in there, it's not going to do anything. Boots are going to be on the ground," she said.