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Obama to Meet Senators to Gain Support for Syria Strike

Obama will travel to Capitol Hill, where he will try to convince members of his own party to support a strike in Syria.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/9/2013, 6:15 AM

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
Flash 90

As part of his ongoing efforts to support a military strike in Syria, President Barack Obama will travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to sell his plan to Senators, Politico reported Sunday.

The visit to Capitol Hill will take place just hours before a scheduled national address from the Oval Office.

Obama will meet with Senate Democrats as he tries to overcome skepticism and outright opposition from members of his own party as the Senate prepares to hold critical votes on the Syria use-of-force resolution.

According to Politico, there are serious concerns among top Senate Democrats about whether they can pass the Syria resolution approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is likely to win a cloture vote on Wednesday, but it is unclear if the Senate will approve the resolution on a final vote after that, Senate insiders said.

Even if Obama wins Senate approval, opposition in the House is much stronger. Barring a major shift, current projections show the House voting down the measure.

Last Wednesday, a key Senate panel voted to authorize the use of force in response to a chemical attack in Damascus on August 21, which killed more than 1,400 people.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7, with one senator voting present, to approve a military strike over the attack, which the U.S. has said was committed by President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure this week.

Vice President Joe Biden met with a number of Senate Republicans on Sunday night as part of the White House’s “all-hands” effort to pass the resolution, reported Politico, adding that Obama unexpectedly joined the dinner.

GOP Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), John McCain (Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Dan Coats (Ind.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), and Deb Fischer (Neb.) were all in attendance.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice will meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Monday at the White House. Rice will be joined by Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey. They will brief all 433 House members on Monday afternoon.

Obama will also be sitting down for six TV interviews on Monday as part of the White House public-relations blitz.

CNN on the weekend aired footage from 13 short films shown by representatives of Obama to the American Senate, which apparently show the aftermath of chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime against civilians.

A report on Sunday said that German intelligence had determined that Syrian troops may have used chemical weapons in a deadly attack last month without the permission or knowledge of Assad.

According to the report, German intelligence had intercepted numerous messages from Syrian field commanders to the Presidential Palace, asking for permission to deploy chemical weapons against rebels. Each time, permission was denied – leading intelligence officials to conclude that the weapons may have been used by “rogue” units who did not receive permission from Assad.

Also on Sunday, Assad denied that his regime used chemical weapons on civilians, telling PBS that "There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people."

He refused to confirm or deny that he had chemical weapons but said if he did, they were under "centralized control."

Unfazed by Assad’s denial, Kerry told reporters on Sunday that "the evidence speaks for itself."