White House Briefs Some Lawmakers on Syria; Many Waiting for Congressional Consultation
One senior Democrat said he's been "briefed" on Syria by members of the Obama administration, but lawmakers indicate that the White House still has yet to signal to the legislative branch that it will approach Congress for any sort of strike authorization.
“This morning, the administration briefed me on the situation in Syria," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Tuesday afternoon. "The administration is proceeding cautiously, consulting with our allies and other countries in the region to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people."
"The president is considering a broad range of options that have been presented by our military leaders,” Levin added.
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said “before any action is taken regarding Syria, it is imperative that President Obama make the case to the American people and consult with Congress."
"He needs to explain what vital national interests are at stake and should put forth a detailed plan with clear objectives and an estimated cost for achieving those objectives," the senator said.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) also said the administration still needs to approach Congress.
“The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons is beyond the pale. The United States has deep national security interests in Syria and the region. The president has said this is a ‘red line.’ He is now proposing to put action behind his words," Royce said.
“Any U.S. military action could bring serious consequences or further escalation," the chairman continued. "The president should be making the case to the American public, and his administration should come to Congress to explain their plans. The consequences are too great for Congress to be brushed aside.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel consulted by phone with French and British counterparts, press secretary George Little said yesterday.
"In the conversations, Secretary Hagel conveyed that the United States is committed to working with the international community to respond to the outrageous chemical attacks that have claimed the lives of innocent civilians in Syria," Little said. "He condemned the violence carried out by the Syrian regime and stated that the United States military is prepared for any contingency involving Syria. Finally, Secretary Hagel pledged to continue close coordination with the British and French defense forces."
President Obama had a call with his British counterpart, the White House said.
"The President and Prime Minister Cameron spoke today as part of their ongoing consultations about Syria," said the readout from press secretary Jay Carney. "The two leaders discussed possible responses by the international community to the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons on August 21 and agreed to stay in close consultation in the coming days."