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White House pressing Congress hard on Syria resolution

1:11 PM, Sep 2, 2013   |    comments
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The Labor Day holiday is a full work day at the White House as the administration presses its case with Congress for approval of a resolution authorizing military strikes on Syria.

President Obama has invited Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to the White House Monday to discuss his Saturday request for Congress to vote on military strikes.

McCain and Graham are critical to getting the resolution passed through the Senate, and they have jointly expressed concerns that a military strike should be part of a broader strategy in Syria, not simply a random strike to punish the regime.

In addition, his national security team will conduct an unclassified call for House Democrats, according to a senior administration official, who could not be identified because officials were not authorized to discuss White House deliberations. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, are slated to conduct the briefing. The White House is anticipating a majority of House Democrats will be on the call.

Obama said Saturday that he believes the United States should strike Syria in response to evidence showing that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against opposition factions in the country, killing more than 1,400 people.

Kerry said Sunday the administration has more proof Syrian troops used the nerve agent sarin in the Aug. 21 attack.

Administration officials briefed members of Congress in the Capitol Sunday, but lawmakers in both parties have expressed some skepticism about the resolution proposed by the White House. Top Democrats said they believe the resolution will have to be narrowed to ensure that no American soldiers are sent into Syria.

On Tuesday, at the White House, Obama will meet with chairs and ranking members from key national security committees. This includes: Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs Committee, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House Armed Services Committee.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will also be holding a hearing on the issue Tuesday where Hagel and Kerry are expected to testify.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Monday released this statement:

"To earn my vote of support for limited military intervention, President Obama must present a clear plan focused on effective humanitarian intervention or our national security interests.

"Tens of thousands have been killed by the Assad regime in this brutal conflict - relatively few by chemical weapons. A military response that places an arbitrary focus on such weapons will do little to protect civilians and sends a deeply misguided signal that totalitarian regimes should only use conventional weapons to carry out mass murder."

The White House argues that action is about more than just retribution for the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons, it is also necessary to impress upon Iran and other Syrian allies that use of such weapons will not go unpunished.

USA TODAY

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