Obama to seek congressional approval for Syrian military strike (Video)

President Obama announced Saturday that he’s seeking congressional authorization for a limited military strike against Syria over the Bashar Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Syrian citizens. 

Obama said he had made the decision that military action was justified by U.S. intelligence showing the use of chemical weapons. 

He also said he had the authority under his executive powers to launch an attack, but argued seeking the blessing of Capitol Hill was a better route.

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“I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress,” Obama said in the Rose Garden. “The country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective,” Obama said.

Obama said congressional leaders have agreed to schedule a debate and vote when Congress comes back into session.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Saturday that he expects the House to consider the measure the week of Sept. 9. CNN reported it was possible that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), however, would bring the Senate back early.

It's unclear whether a strike will be approved by Congress, particularly in the House.

Boehner has not said whether he supports a military strike, and a House Republican leadership aide said the onus for winning the vote would be on Obama.

"This vote is going to depend on the president making the case to Congress - and, more importantly, the American people," the aide said. "We are also going to need complete, serious answers to the questions the Speaker and others have asked."

Polls suggest the country is split at best on the wisdom of military action against Syria, even to respond to the use of chemical weapons. And a host of lawmakers have raised reservations that range for whether the attacks would be successful, to whether they would draw the U.S. into a broader war. 

Fatigue from the long conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have haunted efforts to win support for action against Syria in both the U.S. and Great Britain, where the British Parliament this week voted against using military force.  

A senior administration official said the president made his decision Friday night, adding that the vote in Great Britain was one of several factors in his decision.

Obama had originally planned to take military action against Syria without congressional authorization, according to officials who spoke to the Associated Press.

Obama made a strong moral case for taking action against Syria, calling that country's use of chemical weapons on civilians "an assualt on human dignity."

“It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons,” Obama said, adding it endangers allies and could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons or their use by terrorist groups that could attack the U.S.

Obama also sought to build public support by reiterating that a U.S. strike would be limited and narrow, and would not involve putting U.S. soldiers on the ground. 

“This would not be an open-ended intervention, it would not put boots on the ground. Instead our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope, but I am confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior and degrade their capacity to carry it out,” Obama said.

He said that the effectiveness of a strike would not be affected by his decision to ask Congress for authorization, something that will extend the timeframe for action that had appeared imminent.

“The chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose, moreover the chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive," Obama said. "It will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now, and I am prepared to give that order."

Obama had been under significant pressure to ask Congress for authorization. 

Nearly 200 House members had signed letters making that case, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Saturday called on Obama to bring Congress back for a vote before any military action in Syria.

 

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON SYRIA

--This report was updated at 5:19 p.m.

--Russell Berman and Justin Sink contributed to this report.