Obama adviser: President doesn’t intend to use force without Congress

September 6, 2013

President Obama's deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken, said in an interview Friday morning that it is not the Obama Administration's "intention" to use military action without the approval of Congress.

Later, the administration clarified that it still believes President Obama has the right to take action on Syria, even without Congress, and that Blinken's comments should not be taken as an indication of what the president might do or not do.

In the interview on NPR, Blinken said it is "neither [the president's] desire nor intention to use that authority, absent Congress backing him.”

The comment is notable because the administration has generally not entertained the idea that an authorization vote could fail -- even as that appears increasingly likely that it will, especially in the House.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Blinken's comments should not be over-analyzed.

"Tony was saying what we have been saying, just with a slightly different formulation. There is no change in our position," Hayden said. "As the president has said, he has the authority to act, but his intention is to do so with the approval of the Congress. As he said in Sweden, he believes they will vote to authorize the use of military force. I'm not going to speculate on the president's decision-making if they don't approve; we think they will."

Update 10:34 a.m.: Obama was asked about Blinken's comments at a press conference in Russia and suggested they are being over-analyzed.

He declined to "speculate" on what he would do if Congress doesn't authorize the use of force.

“I did not put this before Congress just as a political ploy, or as symbolism,” Obama said.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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