The US government has thus far resisted the possibility of striking Syria in the same way NATO forces did last year to prevent attacks on civilians in Libya.
The news came as the Canadian government reversed course and decided to close its embassy in Damascus, according to the Associated Press.
"The ultimate goal of air strikes should be to establish and defend safe havens in Syria, especially in the north, in which opposition forces can organize and plan their political and military activities against Assad," McCain was quoted as saying in remarks on the Senate floor.
McCain reportedly said "relief from Assad's tank and artillery sieges in the many cities that are still contested," noting that the flashpoint city of Homs, which was taken by Syrian forces on Thursday, was “lost for now.”
The United States has already closed its embassy in Damascus, as have France and Britain. Gulf countries have recalled their ambassadors.
"The time has come for a new policy," said McCain. "Assad needs to know that he will not win."
McCain was the 2008 Republican nominee for the US presidency but was defeated by the incumbent, Barack Obama.
The year before the vote, McCain was criticized in 2007 for appearing in a video during which he sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune of the 1961 Fred Fassert song “Barbara Ann.”