President Obama said before a briefing with members of Congress this morning that he’s prepared to rewrite his draft authorization on the use of force in Syria depending on feedback from lawmakers.
“Congress as a whole is taking this issue with the soberness and seriousness that it deserves, is greatly appreciated and I think vindicates the decision for us to present this issue to Congress,” Obama said. “As I’ve said last week, as Secretary Kerry made clear in his presentation last week, we have high confidence that Syria used, in an indiscriminate fashion, chemical weapons that killed thousands of people, including over 400 children, and in direct violation of the international norm against using chemical weapons. That poses a serious national security threat to the United States and to the region, and as a consequence, Assad and Syria needs to be held accountable.”
The president called this week’s flurry of briefings and hearings before Congress returns next week “an opportunity not only to present the evidence to all of the leading members of Congress and their various foreign policy committees as to why we have high confidence that chemical weapons were used and that Assad used them, but it also gives us an opportunity to discuss why it’s so important that he be held to account.”
Obama sent his draft resolution to congressional leaders Saturday night; some members quickly complained that it was too broad.
He reiterated today that he wants “a prompt vote.”
“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. It gives us the ability to degrade Assad’s capabilities when it comes to chemical weapons. It also fits into a broader strategy that we have to make sure that we can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure required so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability not only to Syria but to the region,” Obama said.
“So I look forward to listening to the various concerns of the members who are here today. I am confident that those concerns can be addressed. I think it is appropriate that we act deliberately, but I also think everybody recognizes the urgency here and that we’re going to have to move relatively quickly.”
When asked whether he was prepared to rewrite his resolution, the president said he “would not be going to Congress if I wasn’t serious about consultations, and believing that by shaping the authorization to make sure we accomplish the mission we will be more effective.”
“And so long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to send a clear message to Assad degrading his capabilities to use chemical weapons, not just now but also in the future as long as the authorization allows us to do that, I’m confident that we’re going to be able to come up with something that hits that mark.”
Asked if he was confident of winning the vote, Obama simply said, “I am.”