US President Barack Obama has launched an intense lobbying effort to sway sceptical lawmakers as they weigh whether to support military strikes against Syria, an official said Sunday.
Obama, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and the White House chief of staff, all made individual calls to members of the House and Senate, according to the senior White House official.
That came on top of a classified briefing held for members of Congress on Capitol Hill Sunday afternoon that, according to the official, drew some 70 lawmakers.
On Saturday, the White House formally asked Congress for authorization to conduct military strikes in Syria in a draft resolution framing a narrow set of operations.
That came on the heels of a surprise announcement by Obama that he would seek approval from the House and Senate for action against Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
It remains to be seen if war-weary lawmakers will endorse Obama’s push for action, or hand him a bitter defeat.
On Monday, a federal holiday, Obama will host influential Republican John McCain at the White House.
McCain indicated Sunday he was not yet sure he would support a vote on the resolution.
“We’re in a bit of a dilemma here because I think Senator Lindsey Graham and I, and others, will be wanting a strategy, a plan, rather than just we’re going to launch some cruise missiles and that’s it,” he told CBS television.
More individual phone calls to members of Congress are slated for Monday, as is a conference call with administration officials for House Democrats, the official said.
Then on Tuesday, before leaving for Stockholm and a G20 meeting in Russia, Obama will host the top Republicans and Democrats on key congressional committees that deal with national security issues.
“In all calls and briefings, we will be making the same fundamental case: the failure to take action against (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad unravels the deterrent impact of the international norm against chemical weapons use, and 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,” the official said.
“Anyone who is concerned about Iran and its efforts in the region should support this action.”
But it appears the administration faces an uphill battle.
After Sunday’s briefing at the US Capitol, many lawmakers still appeared unconvinced.
Copyright (2013) AFP. All rights reserved.
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