Obama to Seek OK from Congress for Syria Attack

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 31 2013 2:26 PM

Obama to Seek Congressional Authorization for Syria Attack

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U.S. President Barack Obama joined by Vice President Joe Biden delivers a statement on Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House on August 31

Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

President Obama has no doubt the United States should act. But he wants Congress to approve. Speaking from the White House Saturday, as the drumbeat of war seemed to get deafening, Obama decided to push the pause button, saying “our country will be better off” if lawmakers get a say. “I have decided that the United States should take military action,” Obama said, but then added that considering he’s “the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy” he has decided to “seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”

President Obama’s words effectively delay a strike that seemed imminent. But Obama emphasized the reason why he's willing to delay is because military leaders have made it clear to him that any strike “is not time sensitive” and would be effective even if launched a month from now.

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A congressional debate will certainly be contentious, but the president made it clear this wasn’t just about Syria, calling on lawmakers to consider "what message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?” Obama also addressed the American people, saying that  “I know well that we are weary of war,” but “we are the United States of America ... we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus.”

Obama’s statement from the White House came as senior administration officials were making calls to congressional leaders Saturday to try to increase support for a strike on Syria, reports the Washington Post. The White House is also scheduled to hold an “interagency classified briefing” for House lawmakers Sunday, according to Politico. U.N. inspectors investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria left the country earlier Saturday in a move that was widely seen as setting the stage for a possible U.S.-led attack.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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