What convinced Obama to finally ask Congress for permission to do something?

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. (REUTERS/Mike Theiler)

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. (REUTERS/Mike Theiler)

After putting a decision to launch military strikes on Syria into the hands of Congress, President Barack Obama is doing what his critics have long accused him of failing to do: reaching out, personally and aggressively, to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

While top lieutenants including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry lobby their former congressional colleagues, Obama is making individual calls himself to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to press his case for action.

What Obama has not done since he made his announcement on Saturday is appeal to the public, which both Democrats and Republicans say will be crucial as polls show little enthusiasm for U.S. military action anywhere.

The stakes for the president are high – and the arguments being made in support of a ‘yes’ vote from Congress are making them even higher.

A vote against strikes to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for alleged use of chemical weapons, officials argue, could undermine Obama’s standing in the Middle East as his administration seeks to deter Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians and stabilize a region already in turmoil.

“A rejection of this resolution would be catastrophic, not just for him but for the institution of the presidency and the credibility of the United States,” Senator John McCain said after meeting with Obama at the White House on Monday.

Mindful of those stakes, the White House has employed a “flood the zone” strategy, according to an administration official, using an American football term for an offensive move where players flood an area of the field to overwhelm the opposing team’s defenders.

The evidence of that strategy: an onslaught of briefings, calls and meetings with lawmakers from both political parties.

On Monday National Security adviser Susan Rice, Kerry, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the top U.S. military officer, Martin Dempsey, held an unclassified briefing call for Democratic House members, and Obama met with McCain and fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

On Tuesday Obama will meet with the chairs of key national security committees in Congress and Kerry, Dempsey, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will testify to the Senate foreign relations committee.

“In all calls and briefings, we will be making the same fundamental case: The failure to take action against Assad unravels the deterrent impact of the international norm against chemical weapons use,” a senior administration official said.

“It risks emboldening Assad and his key allies – Hezbollah and Iran – who will see that there are no consequences for such a flagrant violation of an international norm. Anyone who is concerned about Iran and its efforts in the region should support this action,” he said.

CONSULTATION, AFTER THE FACT

Obama has stepped up his interactions with lawmakers this year, holding dinners and building relationships that critics say he lacked.

But any goodwill he has obtained from that effort is limited, and one Republican aide noted on Monday that Obama had only come to Congress after already articulating a decision that strikes were necessary.

“They’re certainly doing more, but it’s after the fact. They already made a decision on what they want to do,” a senior Senate Republican aide told Reuters.

Running parallel to the White House contacts with Congress are conversations that senior Democratic and Republican senators are holding in an attempt to get a resolution passed in the full Senate.

The aide said the Democratic chairmen of relevant Senate committees were consulting with the highest-ranking Republicans on those panels to try to work out language that could pass the Senate next week.

Passage in the Republican-controlled House remains much more problematic, with lawmakers expressing skepticism about U.S. involvement in another war as well as the effectiveness of the limited strikes that Obama has proposed.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Fred Barbash and Cynthia Osterman)
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Copyright  © 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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3 Responses to "What convinced Obama to finally ask Congress for permission to do something?"

  1. David  September 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    “What convinced Obama to finally ask Congress for permission to do something?”

    It probably wasn’t the Constitution, but whatever it was, it is a good thing. The whole point of not having a king in the first place is so one man can’t just plunge a nation into war.

  2. Wayne K Dolik  September 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    “A rejection of this resolution would be catastrophic, not just for him but for the institution of the presidency and the credibility of the United States,” Senator John McCain said after meeting with Obama at the White House on Monday.

    As usual McCain the war profiter is wrong. A no on Syria would be a victory for checks and balances. We have had 3 unitary presidents which have usurped the rights of Congress for years. The institution of the Presidency sorely needs to be reined in by the U.S. Congress. A large recent poll on Drudge shows support for a Syria invasion at a 9% approval rating by the public.

  3. Carl Nemo **==  September 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Regardless of the President’s motivation for enlisting our ‘dead butt’ Congress to excercise it’s Constitutional duty for the authorization to go to war, it’s a breath of ‘fresh air’ for “We the People”.

    Now it’s up to citizens to bend the collective ears of their Congressional District reps and Senators as to their druthers. I’ve done twice since this latest debacle has raised its ugly head in the Middle East.

    Citizens need to remember it’s their government. Simply sitting at home in silence in front of their HDTV’s blaming their leadership for everything gone wrong is the root cause of many of our problems.

    My call is not to surgically strike Assad due to the high risk of this nest of vipers lashing out at Israel and its citizens so too destabilizing the price of oil to the free world. We’re already being ripped off at the pumps and don’t need to give the shadowy players behind the scenes evermore bucks, euros or shekels in their already overstuffed pockets.

    It would be best to do an airspace/sea blockade except for humanitarian aid which would include the blocking of Russian military ships to the Syria’s port of Tartus and Latakia with the exception of the aforementioend aid. If the Ruskies act up then maybe it’s time to jerk them up by the proverbial shorthairs and let them know we mean business, no different than the Cuban Missile crisis; I.E., on a grander scale of confrontation for which they will back down no differently than back then. Nuclear war is truly unthinkable, but I can assure Americans this night that neither Russia or China can prevail in a nuclear exchange and they know so and surely not risking such over Syria. We would be damaged mightily as so too Western Europe, but the world would finally be free of two major evil ‘pests’. “We the People” shall prevail. Our tax dollars finally at work. : )

    I’m providing a linkl to facilitate the contacting of one’s Congressional reps.

    http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

    Carl Nemo **==

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