WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, and intelligence chief James Clapper are among those scheduled to talk to members of Congress later today about Syria.
The teleconference, according to congressional aides, will also include Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Some Republicans and Democrats in Congress have said the president hasn't made the case for U.S. military action against Syria, despite the administration's conclusion that Syria's government carried out a large-scale chemical weapons attack against civilians last week.
One exception is Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He told CBS that Obama should take some form of action to send a message to Syria's Bashar Assad that "chemical weapons cannot be used against innocent civilians."
Some lawmakers insist that Obama can't order military action against Syria without congressional authorization. Menendez, though, says there's an exception under the War Powers act if Obama "believes the national security of the United States is at stake."
The administration signaled yesterday that it would act even without the backing of allies or the United Nations.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, the ranking member of Senate Armed Services Committee, will be part of that briefing.
On Wednesday he issued the following statement calling on President Obama to swiftly present a detailed plan of action in Syria to Congress:
“What we are seeing in Syria is abominable as thousands upon thousands of innocent children and families are being murdered while millions more are being driven from their homes.
Today I told the Administration that I cannot support military action in Syria unless the President presents to Congress his broader strategy in the region that addresses our national security interests and the budget to support it. President Obama has decimated our military beginning with his first budget four and a half years ago. He has underfunded overseas contingency operations (OCO) fund, reduced base defense budget, and put into motion sequestration. Our military has no money left. Will the President pay for this operation with more furloughs and by grounding squadrons again? By continuing to raid the already underfunded base defense budget, Administration Obama further undermines future military readiness and capabilities.
“The United States should also not consider a strategy without thoroughly consulting and heeding the advice of our partners in the region, which include Israel, Jordan and Turkey. It is vital we avoid shortsighted military action that would have little impact on the long-term trajectory of the conflict. We can’t simply launch a few missiles and hope for the best.
“We must not forget this President has put us on the brink of a hollowed force. Our troops are stretched thin, the defense budget has been slashed to historic levels, and we are facing an unprecedented time of unrest across the Middle East amid growing concerns about Iran’s influence on the region and its nuclear ambitions. No red line should have been drawn without the strategy and funding to support it.”