Congress ‘Evenly Divided’ on President Obama’s Next Move in Syria

President Barack Obama faced an uphill struggle on the way to persuading the Congress to launch an attack on Syria.

President Barack Obama and his top aides launched a campaign aimed to persuade the U.S. lawmakers to approve a military response to the Syrian government’s actions. Photo: The White House

Yesterday saw the news that President Obama is seeking Congress approval for a strike punishing Assad’s regime for the use of chemical weapons.

Navy ships were ready to launch missiles immidiately after the order, and U.N. inspectors had left the country after gathering evidence of a chemical weapons attack that took lives of more than 1.400 people including hundreds of children.

But President Obama suffenly decided to receive support of U.S. lawmakers before launching an attack, as polls showed strong opposition from Americans tired of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move as one nation,” Obama announced in the White House Rose Garden.

The president, whose credibility has been called into question for not punishing the Syrian government for previous poison gas attacks, warned the Congress that they must take into consideration the cost of doing nothing in Syria.

“Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?” he said.

A day after dozens of Congress members put off their vacations and rushed to the Capitol building for a Sunday afternoon intelligence briefing on Syria with Obama’s national security team.

When the three-hours-long briefing was over, there was no immediate sign that the many skeptics in Congress had changed their minds.

“I am very concerned about taking America into another war against a country that hasn’t attacked us,” said Representative Janice Hahn, a California Democrat.

On the way out of the briefing, she said the participants appeared “evenly divided” on whether to give the U.S. president approval.

None expressed doubts that the Assad government was involved in the recent attack. “The searing image of babies lined up dead, that’s what I can’t get out of my mind right now,” Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz said after the closed-door briefing.

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters seemed to have quite a skeptical view.

While saying he was “proud” of the president for coming to Congress for approval, Paul said, “It’s at least 50-50 whether the House will vote down the involvement in the Syrian war.”

“I think the Senate will rubber stamp what he wants,” he said. “The House will be a much closer vote.” The Senate is controlled by Obama’s Democratic Party, the House is in the hands of the Republican Party.

Republican Senator John McCain said he was not sure Obama’s request would pass, but made clear his view that tougher military action was needed than the limited cruise missile strikes that the Obama administration is preparing.

Republican Representative Peter King refused to predict whether a sceptical COngress would allow Obama an armed attack on Syria, but he said the president may have to overcome “the isolationist wing” of the Republican Party to prevail.

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