Members of U.S. Congress question White House approach on Syria

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia September 6, 2013. Credit: Reuters

The White House pressed its case on Sunday for military action in Syria but faced an uphill fight in Congress, where several prominent lawmakers said they have not been persuaded to approve strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

With a crucial test vote planned in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough made the rounds of five Sunday talk shows to argue that a limited strike in response to Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons would send a message of deterrence to regional foes.

But Mike Rogers, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a supporter of the strikes, said President Barack Obama had made “a hash” of his argument for military action to punish Assad.

“It’s very clear he’s lost support in the last week … The president hasn’t made the case,” Rogers said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Obama’s plan faces significant resistance from Republicans and his fellow Democrats in Congress, with many lawmakers worried military strikes in Syria could lead to a prolonged U.S. commitment there and spark broader conflicts in the region.

“I am asking where is the national security issue? Make no mistake about it, the minute that one of those cruise missiles lands in there, we are in the Syrian war,” Democrat Loretta Sanchez of California said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

“For the president to say this is just a very quick thing and we are out of there, that’s how long wars start,” said Sanchez, who described herself as “leaning no.”

Michael McCaul, Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Obama’s plan was “irresponsible.”

‘FACE-SAVING MEASURE’

“The problem is, I think lobbing a few Tomahawk missiles will not restore our credibility overseas. It’s kind of a face saving measure for the president after he drew the red line,” McCaul said.

Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that “if I were the president, I would withdraw my request. I don’t believe the support is there in Congress.”

Surveys of Congress show there are still large blocks of undecided lawmakers of both political parties, and several members said on Sunday the administration faced tough fight winning their support for the resolution authorizing military force.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said that given the cuts to the military budget in recent years, the added cost of the operation in Syria could hurt military readiness. “If we can fix this, it may help some people in their vote,” Republican Buck McKeon said on CNN.

“I just wish the president had laid this out better, I wish he’d quit backing away from his own red line and I wish he was more of a commander in chief than a community organizer,” said Republican Peter King of New York, who said he would vote yes “in spite of the president’s conduct.”

McDonough led the administration’s lobbying effort on Sunday, part of an intensive push for support that will continue on Monday when Obama sits for six network television interviews and National Security Adviser Susan Rice speaks on Syria in Washington.

More bipartisan briefings are set, and McDonough will meet with Democrats in the House of Representatives before Obama caps the push with a national address from the White House on Tuesday night.

“Are there consequences for a dictator who would have used those weapons to gas to death hundreds of children? The answer to that question … will be followed closely in Damascus, but will also be followed closely in Tehran, among Lebanese Hezbollah, and others. So this is a very important week,” McDonough said on the “Fox News Sunday” program.

Assad pushed back against Obama on Sunday, denying that his government was behind a chemical weapons attack in Syria and arguing the evidence was not conclusive that such an attack occurred.

“There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people,” CBS reported Assad said in an interview conducted in Damascus.

McDonough said it was “common sense” that Assad was responsible for the attacks.

“Now do we have irrefutable, beyond reasonable doubt evidence? This is not a court of law, and intelligence does not work that way,” McDonough said on CNN.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Paris after meeting key Arab foreign ministers, did not rule out returning to the U.N. Security Council to secure a Syria resolution once U.N. inspectors complete a report on a chemical weapons attack but said Arab countries wanted a tough response.

 


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Hillary Clinton headed to Boston for women's leadership…

Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to visit Massachusetts Wednesday amid continuing speculation about making another bid for the presidency in 2016.

Local

The Boston Marathon: Step by step, the race…

For over a century, the Boston Marathon has been an event centered around sportsmanship, endurance and athleticism, but there’s no denying the face of the renowned race has been changed…

Local

Boston Marathon: Marathoners ready to run, honor victims

Scores of runners will cross the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton Monday and embark on a 26.2-mile journey to Boston in honor of the victims.

Local

MIT student, Rhodes scholar, dies

Eliana Hechter, a student at MIT and Harvard, died, her family said. The announcement was posted on MIT's website.

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

The Word

Miley Cyrus cancels more dates, tweeting from hospital

Miley Cyrus is reportedly so sick that she's had to postpone more tour dates. We know this because she has been sitting in a hospital…

Music

Loop are, er, um, back in the loop

Experimental noise rock band Loop's three mid-1980s to early-1990s albums, “Heavens End,” “Fade Out” and “A Gilded Eternity,” were mercifully reissued.

NHL

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings…

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings in Game 2

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.