President Obama heeded the call of members of Congress who were demanding a vote on military action on Syria, but Congress will not rush back to Washington to take that vote.
Obama and congressional leaders may well need the time to make the case to Congress to get enough members to support military action in Syria. Members of both parties have expressed skepticism about whether it's justified.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced the House will hold a vote the week of Sept. 9, when Congress is scheduled to return from its summer break. The White House is already conducting briefings with lawmakers throughout the weekend, however.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., issued a statement Saturday saying that the Senate will hold public hearings and briefings on the issue next week. He said the Senate will vote on the resolution no later than the week of Sept. 9.
"The decision to take military action is not one to be taken lightly, and this decision will receive the full and open debate it deserves," Reid said in the statement.
"I believe the use of military force against Syria is both justified and necessary," Reid said. "I believe the United States has a moral obligation as well as a national security interest in defending innocent lives against such atrocities, and in enforcing international norms such as the prohibition against the use of chemical weapons."
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he will preside over a hearing beginning this Tuesday.
"Senior Administration witnesses will testify before the Committee and the Congress will debate this issue actively, fully, and publicly," Menendez said. "It is my view that the use of military force in Syria is justified and necessary given the Assad regime's reprehensible use of chemical weapons and gross violation of international law."
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The decision to seek a vote was praised across the political spectrum for re-engaging the legislative branch's role in approving military interventions.
"We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised," Boehner said in a statement.
"The president's role as commander in chief is always strengthened when he enjoys the expressed support of the Congress," added Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal activist group, likewise praised the president for seeking congressional approval. "After years of societal and international norms being thrown out the door — and things like torture, violations of civil liberties and war becoming normalized — today's announcement is an important down payment on proper norms and regular order being restored," said PCCC spokesman Adam Green.
The House and Senate will vote on what is called a joint resolution, which has the force of law and must be signed by the president.
About one-third of the House, 140 members, signed a letter last week led by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., demanding an authorization vote, but there is significant skepticism in both parties about the merits of military intervention, and the brief congressional debate will likely be intense.
After a decade of war, there are fewer defense hawks in the Republican Party, and more Republicans are willing to question U.S. engagement abroad and the foreign policy of a president they oppose.
Coupled with anti-war liberals, the vote in the House could be a hurdle for leaders of both parties to assemble a coalition of support.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., indicated on CNN on Saturday that he would not support military action because he does not see a national security interest.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., tweeted: "Stand ready to debate and vote on military action even before sept 9 or 10. Will need more evidence of threat to U.S. Security."
And Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., tweeted that Obama "says USA will be stronger if he follows constitution & gets (authorization for the use of military force), but he's prepared to violate it if we don't agree with him."
Some House members also said the chamber should not wait a week. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said in a tweet: "I call on Speaker Boehner to convene the House to debate and vote on Syria by Wednesday of next week."
In the Democratic-controlled Senate, Obama will likely find broad support among the chamber's 54 Democrats and leading GOP senators.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement: "I am very pleased that the president has listened to the suggestion we and many others have made to bring this authorization to Congress. At this point in our country's history, this is absolutely the right decision, and I look forward to seeing what the Administration brings forward and to a vigorous debate on this important authorization."
But Corker added: "Now that the president has decided to use force and seek authorization, it is imperative that he immediately begins using every ounce of his energy to make his case to the American people."