The headlines on Saturday give the distinct impression that Congress is unwilling to return from their summer break to address the potential of a military strike in Syria. Susan Davis and Paul Singer of USAToday, for example, reported that
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. [added emphasis]
Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times writes,
President Obama put the Syria decision in Congress’s hands Saturday, but lawmakers — who had begged for a voice in the decision — seemed in no rush to return to Washington to make it. [added emphasis]
As of Friday, 140 members signed a letter written by GOP House member Scott Rigell as reported by Brianna Edwards of Politico. Out of the signatories, 21 were Democrats.
The letter read in part that
We stand ready to come back into session, consider the facts before us, and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict. [added emphasis]
An additional letter, written by Rep. Barbara Lee expressing the need for President Obama to consult with the people's representatives, was signed by at least 52 Democrats. Lee's letter does not mention coming in for an early session.
The entirely misleading headlines are based on comments by Speaker John Boehner, who "announced the House will hold a vote the week of Sept. 9, when Congress is scheduled to return from its summer break." Boehner likely based his comments on those made by President Obama on Saturday, who declared,
And that's why I've made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress.
Over the last several days, we've heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they've agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session. [added emphasis]
The full transcript of the President's remarks were posted at Real Clear Politics.
The deceptive headlines give the impression that Congress is unwilling to come back early, but it seems that the urgency expressed by Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday was premature. The Washington Post has a full transcript of Secretary Kerry's remarks.
Kerry used the phrase "It matters" fourteen times and "we know" 24 times during his speech. If Syria was an imminent threat, President Obama would have found many in Congress who already expressed the desire to return early to debate military intervention in Syria.
The announcement was quite surprising, as it is unlikely that Congress will agree to a military strike on Syria, particularly since the goal is not "regime change," as made clear by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, as reported by Gather Politics.
Considering that after President Obama's speech, he went to play golf with Vice President Joe Biden, perhaps dealing with Syria does not matter so much after all.
From the pool: Obama and Biden are now playing golf.
— Carrie Dann (@CarrieNBCNews) August 31, 2013