Tennessee lawmakers welcomed President Barack Obama's announcement Saturday that he would seek authorization from Congress before ordering a military strike against Syrian regime targets in the wake of the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21—an action that killed more than 1,400 people.
In remarks at the White House Rose Garden, Obama said he had decided the U.S. should take military action but added that he was "mindful" of his role in a democratic process. The president encouraged members of Congress to not "avoid hard decisions" upon their return to Washington, D.C., from a monthlong recess.
"Here's my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community," Obama said. "What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What's the purpose of the international system that we've built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by governments of 98 percent of the world's people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?"
Sen. Bob Corker, who earlier in the week predicted that Obama seeking authorization from Congress was "not going to happen," praised the president's choice in a news release, calling it "absolutely the right decision." Corker, who is ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also said he would support "surgical, proportional" strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"I am very pleased that the president has listened to the suggestion we and many others have made to bring this authorization to Congress," the senator and former Chattanooga mayor said. "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. Further, 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."
In a report from Washington newspaper The Hill, Corker was later quoted saying impending votes could prove problematic for the president.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, who had also called on Obama to consult with Congress before a strike, said the president's decision was correct under the Constitution. But the senator expressed concerns over the intention of a strike, along with the follow-up period after an action, and said he planned to ask questions on the subjects when the Senate meets for debate.
"I'm concerned about the consequences of a military strike in Syria and what happens with step two, three and four after that," Alexander said. "There may be a variety of ways, some military and some not, to show our disgust with the Syrian government's apparent use of chemical weapons against its own people. Since the president's proposed action appears not to be for the purpose of overthrowing the Assad government, during the congressional debate I will assess whether a military strike would do more harm than good by setting off a chain of consequences that could involve America fighting men and women in another long-term Middle Eastern conflict."
Rep. Scott DesJarlais said he planned to return to Washington early to review a classified briefing on the administration's justification and proposal for a strike. The congressman added that he appreciated Obama's decision.
"I certainly appreciate the president listening to our calls for Congressional approval before committing any American military forces in Syria," DesJarlais said in an emailed statement. "I am planning on returning to Washington as soon as possible to receive a briefing and review the classified report."
A spokesman for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who along with 116 other members of Congress signed a letter to the president asking him to seek approval from Congress, said the congressman was pleased at the development.
"The congressman is pleased President Obama has listened to Congress and will seek approval before engaging in military action," Tyler Threadgill, press secretary for Fleischmann, said.
Both House and Senate members are expected to vote on a resolution the week of Sept. 9, according to a USA Today report.
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