Instead, the first order of business is the question of whether to support missile strikes in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged chemical attack on civilians. Rank-and-file lawmakers, many of whom were demanding congressional input on the decision, now appear stunned that it is before them amid so many other divisive issues.
“We’re having trouble walking and chewing gum already. This doesn’t make it any easier,” 10-term Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-N.J.) said last week as he left a classified briefing on Syria.
The convergence of these issues sets up a complicated negotiating environment, with the Syria question burning up a significant amount of political capital for both Democratic and Republican leaders.
Obama, home from his trip to the Group of 20 summit in Russia, has begun a far-reaching campaign to win support for action against Syria. The president will sit down with PBS, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News Channel for interviews airing Monday night, White House officials said, and will make his case in a speech to the nation on Tuesday.
Obama used his weekly radio address Saturday to try to rally a skeptical public in a bid to shift momentum his way, saying: “We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we’ve seen out of Syria. Failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again; that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us, and it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons.”
U.S. intelligence officials have authenticated at least 13 videos of the aftermath of the alleged Syrian gas attack showing men and children convulsing and struggling to breathe, a government official said Saturday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the material.
The graphic videos, obtained by The Washington Post, were made public previously on YouTube and other Internet sites. They are among as many as 100 public videos that purport to document victims of the Aug. 21 attack near Damascus.
At the request of Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the images were shown to senators Thursday during a classified briefing on whether to authorize limited military strikes against Syrian government targets.