By Justin Sink - 09/06/13 02:05 PM EDT
President Obama said he will make his case for a military strike on Syria in an address to the nation on Tuesday.
The president announced his intention during a press conference Friday at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he warned that "the Assad regime's brazen use of chemical weapons isn't just a Syrian tragedy."
Obama's decision to address the country from the Oval Office underscores concerns that the administration is losing ground in its bid to secure congressional approval for a vote.
According to The Hill's Whip List, 100 House members are now "no" votes or are leaning against military authorization.
Seventy-two of them are Republicans and 28 are Democrats. Only 31 House members — 10 Republicans and 21 Democrats — are "yes" votes or are "leaning yes."
The public has also indicated its skepticism, with a Washington Post/ABC News poll released earlier this week showing nearly six in 10 Americans opposed a military strike.
Obama acknowledged Friday that it would be a "heavy lift" convincing members of Congress — and their constituents — on the need for action. He said he knew he was "elected to end wars and not start them," and it was therefore necessary "to work through, systematically, making the case."
"For the American people, who have been through over a decade of war now with enormous sacrifice in blood and treasure, any hint of further military entanglements in the Middle East are going to be viewed with suspicion," Obama said.
The president said he would continue to emphasize that his proposed strike would not lead to a "slippery slope" and greater military involvement.
"For the American people at least, the concern really has to do with understanding that what we're describing here would be limited and proportionate and designed to address this problem of chemical weapons use and upholding a norm that helps keep all of us safe," Obama said.
"And that is going to be the case that I try to make, not just to Congress, but to the American people over the coming days."
A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who supports military strikes, said Friday that he hoped Obama's speech isn't too late to convince a skeptical public about the need to hold Assad to account.
"The speaker has consistently said the president has an obligation to make his case for intervention directly to the American people," said Brendan Buck, Boehner's spokesman. "Members of Congress represent the views of their constituents, and only a president can convince the public that military action is required. We only hope this isn’t coming too late to make the difference.“
That Obama could take his pitch to the American public has been hinted at for days.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called it a necessary step, and predicted Obama would make the address “later this week.”
In an interview with The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) suggested it was the best way for Obama to shift momentum.
“I think he’ll need to go on TV, in primetime,” Sherman said. “The active public is against this. I don’t know a member of Congress whose emails and phone calls are in favor of this.”
Secretary of State John Kerry echoed that sentiment, saying at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing he believed the president would soon address the nation on the topic.
“I have no doubt the president will,” Kerry said.
Updated at 11:17 a.m.