White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken backed away from a comment he made last week that President Obama would not launch military strikes on Syria without Congressional approval, indicating that the White House may still be open to an attack regardless of how the House and Senate vote.
Blinken said on NPR on Friday that while Obama has the legal authority to act in Syria without backing from Congress, “it’s neither his desire nor intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him.”
But when asked if he stood by those remarks during the White House press briefing on Monday, Blinken said he “didn’t speak artfully”:
BLINKEN: I’m not going to jump ahead of the process. I didn’t speak very artfully. The president, it is clearly his desire and intent to secure the support of Congress for this action. But I don’t want to get into any hypotheticals about what will or will not happen after the vote.
Q: So you’re not necessarily standing by that quote?
BLINKEN: I’m saying that there’s no point in jumping ahead of where we are now.
Obama said on Friday that “it would be a mistake for me to jump the gun and speculate” about whether he would decide to take action absent Congressional approval.
Whether Congress will authorize the use of force is still up in the air, particularly now that there’s timid support for a new Russian proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international supervision, thereby seemingly negating the primary reason — preventing further attacks — for a U.S. strike. More than 200 House members are either against an attack or lean that way as it appears that Obama administration officials haven’t been successful in convincing lawmakers to support authorization. “It’s very clear he’s lost support in the last week … The president hasn’t made the case,” said House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) on Sunday.