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White House chief of staff confident of vote on Syria strikes

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said President Obama will win the vote to authorize military strikes in Syria, despite mounting congressional opposition.

Kicking off a three-day White House media blitz on Syria Sunday, McDonough brushed aside the rising number of voices in Congress against military action, saying it was still “too early” to reach conclusions.

“This resolution is going to pass after we work this,” McDonough said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The White House chief of staff appeared on all five Sunday shows as the Obama administration ramps up efforts to try to sway public opinion on Syria.

McDonough’s Sunday show sweep comes one day before the president will conduct a round of interviews with six television networks on Monday and give a primetime White House address on Tuesday.

The public pitch from the Obama is part of the administration’s attempts to convince Congress that strikes are a necessary response after Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime allegedly used chemical weapons last month.

The White House still has a steep hill to climb.

While McDonough expressed confidence Sunday that Congress would approve military strikes, he was alone in his view.

“No” votes on a strike have piled up this past week after Obama said he would seek congressional authorization before taking military action

The landscape is particularly tenuous in the House, where 31 lawmakers have said they are “yes” or leaning toward supporting strikes, while 139 lawmakers are against or leaning against strikes, according to The Hill’s Whip List. Most of the “no” votes in the House are Republicans: 106 have expressed opposition.

On Sunday, even lawmakers who support a military strike said they don’t think a resolution authorizing force can pass the House.

“I don't think it passes the House,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), said on ABC's “This Week.”

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, who like Kinzinger supports a military response, said on CBS's “Face the Nation” that the administration’s strategy to pass the resolution has been “a confusing mess.”

“The only thing more confusing to me than what their Syria strategy has been the last two years is their strategy to try to get buy-in by representatives in Congress and the American people,” Rogers said

McDonough acknowledged the White House had work to do to secure votes for military action, but said on “Fox News Sunday” that it was “too early to come to any conclusion.”

McDonough made his pitch on Sunday to Congress and the public that strikes are necessary for U.S. national security interests and would remain limited in scope. He argued across the five shows he appeared on that the White House was making progress because the intelligence that Assad’s regime is responsible for the attack is not in doubt.

“Members have been in their districts and in their states, we've been talking to many of them, dozens of them,” he said on “This Week.” “And when they see this intelligence, they do not rebut it. So the bottom line is, they have to answer the question: Should there be consequences?”

McDonough argued that striking Syria and deterring Assad from using chemical weapons again was important to U.S. national security interests, because Assad and the leaders in Iran are watching to see how the U.S. answers last month’s attack.

“The Iranians are going to watch that answer. The Syrians are going to watch that answer. Hezbollah is going to watch that answer,” McDonough said.

The White House chief of staff declined to answer some of the more difficult questions that Obama has not addressed, most notably what the president would do if Congress votes against military force.

But he insisted the votes in Congress were important.

“Our consultation and the president’s request for authorization is not an empty exercise,” McDonough said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The White House chief of staff also did not weigh in on the political questions surrounding Syria, such as when McDonough was asked whether losing the vote would harm Obama politically amid a jam-packed fall agenda — or whether Obama was weighing the possibility of impeachment proceedings if he were to strike without congressional authorization.

“Politics, all those questions are going to be debated and worked out by others,” McDonough said on “This Week." “We're focused on the national security question before us.”

McDonough urged lawmakers to watch videos showing victims of the alleged chemical attack that were sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee made the videos public on Saturday, with Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) saying she hoped the images could change people’s minds.

“In terms turning a blind eye, I hope before any of member of Congress makes his decision, they take a look at that video you made available,” McDonough said on CNN, which was leaked the videos before the committee released them Saturday.

“Take a look at that and try to turn away from that,” he said.

— Julian Hattem and Kyle Balluck contributed.

— This report was originally published at 9:28 a.m. and last updated at 1:07 p.m.