But the 15-4 vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee does not endorse using U.S. troops for a full-scale war in Libya.
The panel also approved an amendment offered by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking member who voted against the full resolution, to restrict U.S. military involvement to warplane refueling, intelligence sharing, search and rescue missions and operational planning, The Hill reported.
Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., said the authorization "hopefully" may come up for a vote on the Senate floor, the Washington newspaper said.
The U.S. House rejected a similar resolution last week.
Also Tuesday, a U.S. State Department adviser told the Senate panel the Obama administration should have consulted more closely with Congress, but didn't need congressional approval for the bombing.
Adviser Harold H. Koh answered sometimes icy questions from Senate Foreign Relations Committee members , The New York Times reported. Koh said it was the administration's position it was not required to seek congressional approval for the Libya mission under the Vietnam-era War Powers Resolution, which requires presidents to end hostilities within 60 to 90 days after notifying Congress of a military engagement, unless lawmakers authorize the operation.
"From the outset, we noted that the situation in Libya does not constitute a war," Koh said, adding the phrase "hostilities" is an "ambiguous word of art" that did not likely apply in Libya. "We do not believe the war powers 60 days automatic pull-out provision applies to the Libya mission," he said, The Times reported.