Obama to Congress: Do Not Vote Now on Authorizing Me to Attack Syria

By Terence P. Jeffrey | September 11, 2013 | 4:10 AM EDT

President Barack Obama addresses the nation in a live televised speech from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

(CNSNews.com) - In a nationally televised speech in which he had initially been expected to make the case to the American people to support a vote in Congress to authorize him to attack Syria, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday night that he had asked Congress not to vote on whether to authorize him to attack Syria.

Eleven days ago, on Aug. 31, President Obama gave a speech in the Rose Garden to tell the country he had decided the United States should launch a military strike on Syria to punish the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against its own people.

In that same speech, the president said he would seek a vote in Congress to authorize him to launch that attack.

Last night, Obama announced that he has asked Congress to postpone a vote on authorizing him to attack Syria and that he will instead send Secretary of State John Kerry to talk to the Russians about helping the U.S. work out a diplomatic solution with the Syrians.

“Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” Obama said in his Rose Garden speech on Aug. 31.

“But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I'm also mindful that I'm the President of the world's oldest constitutional democracy,” said Obama eleven days ago. “ I've long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. 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.”

Last night Obama took a dramatically different approach to Syria. He no longer is convinced that he should use military force there, he does not want Congress to vote to authorize such a use of force now, and he is sending Secretary Kerry to talk to the Russians.

“However, over the last few days, we’ve seen some encouraging signs,” Obama said in his nationally televised speech on Tuesday night.

“In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin, the Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons,” said Obama. “The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons, and even said they’d join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.

“It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitment,” said Obama. “But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies.

“I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path,” said Obama. “ I’m sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin.”