Dear Commons Community,
As pressure mounts, President Obama said yesterday that while he reserves the right as commander-in-chief to attack Syria, he will seek Congressional approval. This will be viewed as a way to cover his decision. Opposition to a military strike in Syria has been growing both here in the United States and abroad. As the New York Times reports:
“The proposal would empower Mr. Obama to order military action to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation” of chemical or biological weapons “within, to or from Syria” and to “protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.” Still, White House officials indicated that Mr. Obama might still authorize force even if Congress rejected it.
As Syrian forces braced for attack, the president’s decision effectively put it off for more than a week, since Congress is not due back in Washington until Sept. 9. Mr. Obama did not push for Congress to come back sooner, and House leaders opted to keep to their schedule. Senate leaders set committee hearings to begin on Tuesday with a floor vote “no later” than the week of Sept. 9.”
There are differing opinions in Congress over what to do in Syria. A deeply divided Congress was already gearing up for bitter fights this fall over federal spending, the debt ceiling, immigration and government surveillance, and the surprise Syria vote will invite a complicated, multilayered debate crossing party lines and involving other actors like Israel supporters who worry that failure to follow through in Syria will embolden Iran.
Many lawmakers welcomed the chance to vote. “At this point in the country’s history, it’s important that we have this debate, that we take this vote,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.
But some argued that Mr. Obama had blinked in the face of a tough choice and possible backlash, and abdicated responsibility. “I strongly believe that the commander in chief has the absolute right to take military action,” said Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York. “The president seems like he’s weak at every level.”
Within the country, the growing consensus is that Americans are not supportive of involvement in another war in the Middle East.