WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama said Wednesday the international community s credibility is at stake in the debate over a military response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
His top advisers took the argument for action to the opposition-controlled House of Representatives, where the significant support seen in the Senate will be harder to find.
Asked about his past comments drawing a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons, Obama said that line had already been drawn by a chemical weapons treaty ratified by countries around the world.
“That wasn t something I made up,” he said. He spoke in Sweden before he attends a G-20 economic summit in Russia later this week.
With Obama in Europe, his top national security aides were facing public and private hearings at the Capitol to argue for Congress authorization for strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad s regime.
That s in retaliation for what the administration says was a deadly sarin gas attack by his forces outside Damascus last month.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee could vote on authorizing the use of force as early as Wednesday the first in a series of votes as the president s request makes its way through Senate and House committees before coming before the two chambers for a final vote.
Asked whether he would take action against Syria if he fails to get approval from Congress, Obama said that as commander in chief, “I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America s national security.”
The Senate panel s top members drafted a resolution late Tuesday that permits Obama to order a “limited and tailored” military mission against Syria, as long as it doesn t exceed 90 days and involves no U.S. troops on the ground for combat operations.
But Republican Sen. John McCain, an outspoken advocate of intervention against Assad s regime, said Wednesday he doesn t support the Senate resolution.
He expressed support for the administration s plan after meeting with Obama at the White House on Monday, but he has wanted more support to Syria s rebels.
The White House had no immediate reaction to the Senate measure. Secretary of State John Kerry, testifying earlier before the committee, signaled that the troop restriction was acceptable.
Now the administration needs to persuade a Republican-dominated House of Representatives has opposed almost everything on Obama s agenda since the party seized the majority more than three years ago.
The top opposition Republican in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner, has signaled key support, saying the U.S. has “enemies around the world that need to understand that we re not going to tolerate this type of behavior.”