President Barack Obama told reporters as he sat down with senior lawmakers on Tuesday morning that he is prepared to negotiate a more limited war authorization against Syria — up to a point.
“I would not be going to Congress if I wasn’t serious about consultations,” he said. “And so long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to send a clear message to Assad degrading his capabilities to use chemical weapons — not just now but also in the future — as long as the authorization allows us to do that, I’m confident that we’re going to be able to come up with something that hits that mark.”
Obama said he believes Congress will ultimately back his request.
He said his consultations with lawmakers give him a chance to show “why we have high confidence that chemical weapons were used and that Assad used them, but it also gives us an opportunity to discuss why it’s so important that he be held to account.”
Failure to do so would show “international norms around issues like nuclear proliferation don’t mean much,” he said.
The president again emphasized the limited nature of his plan to attack Syria.
“It does not involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan,” he said. “This is a limited, proportional step that will send a clear message not only to the Assad regime, but also to other countries that may be interested in testing some of these international norms, that there are consequences.”
Obama said the administration also has a broader strategy of aiding the opposition to “allow Syria ultimately to free itself from the kinds of terrible civil wars and death and activity that we’ve been seeing on the ground.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.