Washington (CNN) – A bipartisan group of eight senators is working on an alternative resolution on Syria that would set key benchmarks that must be met to avoid a military strike in the war-torn country.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week passed a resolution granting authorization to the president for U.S. military action in Syria, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday decided to delay holding a full Senate vote due to unfolding developments for a potential diplomatic solution.
In the meantime, President Barack Obama and administration officials are still urging Congress to get behind a plan for U.S. force in case the international community fails to come up with a peaceful solution, a Russian proposal that would involve Syria handing over control of its chemical weapons to international control.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, announced Tuesday morning on CNN's New Day that the group of senators is working on an alternative resolution, this one tailored to the recent Russian proposal. The draft resolution would require the United Nations to pass its own resolution saying Syria used chemical weapons, and by a certain (though yet to be determined) date remove the weapons from Syria, according to a source familiar with the talks.
If those two mandates are not met, U.S. force would be authorized, according to a broad outline of the Senate resolution. The group hasn't decided if they will include any restrictions-such as language that prohibits boots on the ground-in the legislation.
It's unclear when the resolution might be introduced, as there's currently no timeline for a rollout, the source said. The Senate floor is expected to be somewhat in limbo on Syria as the negotiations play out. Staff will meet Tuesday to discuss the language and senators continue to talk, but there are no meetings planned for Tuesday among the senators themselves.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is part of the bipartisan group writing the fresh Senate resolution, said he doesn't want the Senate to act until the U.N. takes formal steps to take control of Syria's chemical weapons.
"I won't be for this until I see that the U.N. process starts," he told CNN. "It would be a huge mistake for the Senate to embrace the process that's fluid. We can't put our hopes and dreams in the hands of Russia."
The United Nations Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting on Syria Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.
In addition to McCain and Graham, the group of eight senators includes fellow Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York, Carl Levin of Michigan (the Armed Services Committee chairman), Chris Coons of Delaware, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. White House officials and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, are also involved in the talks but have not necessarily come out in support of it, the source said.
President Barack Obama will likely talk about the new Russian proposal-a pitch he labeled a "potentially positive development" in an interview with CNN on Monday-when he visits Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon to meet separately with Senate Democrats and Republicans. The visit is part of the president's aggressive offensive to generate support as the White House makes its next moves in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons last month. The president also addresses the American public Tuesday night in prime time on national TV.
Since Friday, August 23, the administration has had discussions with at least 93 Senators and more than 350 House Members, according to a White House official.
In another development Tuesday, the top Republican in the Senate said he'll oppose the current resolution passed by the Senate committee last week to authorize U.S. military action against Syria.
"Our vital national security risk is clearly not at play," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor. His position makes him the only one of the top four party leaders in Congress to oppose the resolution.
On the House side, Vice President Joe Biden is meeting with a group of House Republicans and House Democrats at the White House on Tuesday, the official said.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi argued the Russian plan has "given the president a victory."
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, she wouldn't comment directly on the new Senate effort to change to the resolution, but said even before the Russians acted, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and others were working on language to provide an opportunity to see if "this is possible."
If a diplomatic solution falls through, Pelosi said the U.S. should move forward with "limited, targeted, tailored" strikes.
She added White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told House Democrats the Russian proposal "will be given every consideration" if it is "serious, if it is credible, if it is real." Democratic Leaders argued the proposal doesn't take the wind out of the administration's efforts but "validates what the president is doing."
– CNN's Ashley Killough, Dana Bash, Kevin Bohn, and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.