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
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…