Monday, September 2, 2013


WASHINGTON—The White House is girding for more than a week of battle with Congress over President Barack Obama's plan to launch limited military strikes against the Syrian regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons last month.

To back the administration's position, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the U.S. had obtained new blood and hair samples from inside Syria that confirmed President Bashar al-Assad's regime used sarin, a powerful nerve agent, against civilians in an Aug. 21 attack on an eastern Damascus suburb.
Mr. Kerry said he believed this new evidence will help the White House build more support on Capitol Hill and among allies in Europe and the Middle East to take military action aimed at degrading Mr. Assad's ability to conduct chemical warfare.
The leaders of the House and Senate said they would hold votes on the need for military action in Syria during the week of Sept. 9.
The administration quickly began making its pitch to lawmakers. On Sunday, it held a classified briefing on Capitol Hill, and on Monday, Sens. RINO'S … John McCain (RINO from Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (RINO from S.C.) were invited to the White House for a special briefing. The two, who have pressed for a more forceful strike on Syria than the cruise missile attack telegraphed by the administration, are expected to be key players as Mr. Obama tries to gather support for military action.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration needs to use the hearing to explain why military action is necessary and "how it will be sufficiently limited to keep the U.S. from being drawn further into the Syrian conflict."
"The resolution presented by the White House is very loosely written and needs to be narrowed in a number of ways that relate to scope of action and duration,'' said Mr. Van Hollen, who served on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before he was elected to Congress. "I've been working with some of my colleagues on a rewrite."
Mr. Kerry began making the administration's argument directly to the American public Sunday morning with appearances on all five television interview shows.
"If the United States is unwilling to lead a coalition of people who are prepared to stand up for the international norm with respect to chemical weapons that's been in place since 1925, if we are unwilling to do that, we will be granting a blanket license to Assad to continue to gas," Mr. Kerry said on ABC's "This Week." "We will send a terrible message to the North Koreans, Iranians and others who might be trying to read how serious is America."
Mr. Obama said on Saturday that he has decided he should order a limited military strike against Syria, but in an about-face he said he would ask Congress to authorize the mission.
Mr. Assad's regime, meanwhile, mocked Mr. Obama's decision to seek congressional approval for military action, claiming the U.S. had lost its nerve and was fading as a global superpower.
Opponents of military action said the bombing of Syria risked quickly escalating and bringing in Mr. Assad's chief international backers, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
They also worried that a U.S. attack on Syria would serve only to ensure a stalemate in the Arab country while fueling the flood of more refugees into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
"I'm not sending my son, your son, to fight for a stalemate," said Sen. Rand Paul, (R., Ky.) on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Mr. Kerry and other senior U.S. administration officials worked on Sunday to counter the charges being made by some American lawmakers and allies that Mr. Obama backed down on his pledge to use force, and buckled under political and diplomatic pressure.
A key question is who will be leading the charge on Capitol Hill to help build support for the measure in advance of the vote. House Speaker John Boehner (RINO from Ohio) hasn't stated his position but has raised questions about the administration's broader goal and strategy.