WASHINGTON -- Calling for a “prompt” congressional vote on authorizing a military strike against Syria, President Obama is making the case to top lawmakers Tuesday that the action would be “limited” and “proportional” but would also degrade Damascus’ ability to use chemical weapons.
Obama, before a meeting with congressional leaders and top administration officials at the White House, said he was open to changes in a draft resolution sent to lawmakers over the weekend to authorize a strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military.
He also said he was confident that Congress would ultimately support it.
“This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan,” the president said. “This is a limited, proportional step that will send a clear message not only to the Assad regime but also to other countries that may be interested in testing some of these international norms that there are consequences.”
If the United States were not to act, Obama said, there is a chance that chemical weapons could be transmitted to non-state actors, posing a risk to allies such as Israel, Turkey and Jordan.
It would also, he said, send a message “that international norms around issues like nuclear proliferation don’t mean much.”
The president was meeting with leaders from the House and Senate as well as senior members of Congress’ national security committees.
Tuesday also marks the first public hearing on the administration’s plans, with Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel set to take questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the afternoon.
They are also scheduled to go before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, and other administration officials are continuing to brief lawmakers in closed settings.
The president said he was serious about congressional consultation or he would not be calling for a vote, and that he was confident lawmakers were treating the issue with the “soberness and seriousness” it deserved.