President Barack Obama announced Saturday that he has decided that the United States should take action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons, but that he will wait for Congressional approval. He emphasized that the U.S. would not put boots on the ground, but was positioned to strike by air.
Obama, appearing with Vice President Joe Biden, called the confirmed use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime "an atrocity" and said the U.S. has military assets in the region prepared to strike at any time. He said that before giving the order for a military strike, he would wait for Congress to vote.
"So to all members of Congress of both parties, I ask you to take this vote for our national security. I am looking forward to the debate," Obama said. "Ultimately this is not about who occupies this office at any given time, it's about who we are as a country ... [N]ow is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments. We do what we say. We lead with the belief that right makes might -- not the other way around."
Congress is divided on whether or not the United States should become entangled in another country's civil war. Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have been vocal about their belief that the United States is obligated to intervene, calling the August 21 chemical weapons attack "a crime against humanity." Others, like Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, said the United States must remain cautious and Obama should obtain Congressional approval before acting. Paul said in a statement that while the United States should condemn the use of chemical weapons, "the Constitution grants the power to declare war to Congress not the President."
While Obama said the situation in Syria directly impacts U.S. national security, Paul argued that the war "has no clear national security connection to the United States."
The president emphasized Saturday that he reserved the right to act even if the legislative branch declined to approve action. "I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization," he said.
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