Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 12:30 pm
President Obama's call for Congress to give him the go-ahead to strike targets in Syria has put House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on the same side of an important issue for one of the few times in recent years.
Calling Syrian President Bashar Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons "a barbarous act," Boehner emerged from a meeting at the White House to say he supports Obama's request.
While President Obama is trying to convince members of Congress that action is needed in Syria, one Washington-based group is already aiding opposition forces. Host Michel Martin talks with Dan Layman of the Syrian Opposition Group about their efforts to fund the Free Syrian Army.
Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 9:25 am
The White House is working with congressional leaders to shape a resolution that authorizes the type of military action that would send a "clear message" to President Bashar Assad and cripple the Syrian leader's "capability to use chemical weapons not just now but in the future," President Obama said Tuesday.
Sitting with leaders from both major parties, the president also said he is confident lawmakers are "going to be able to come up with something that hits that mark."
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Here's a simple reality of democracy. The president can ask people for support, and if they give it, he's stronger. But they can also say no. That's the reason that presidents have often launched military action without a formal vote in Congress.
All over the country, lawyers who defend poor people in criminal cases have been sharing their stories about painful budget cuts. Some federal public defenders have shut their doors to new clients after big layoffs. And in many states, the public defense system has operated in crisis for years.
But an unprecedented recent court filing from the Justice Department has cheered the typically overburdened attorneys who represent the poor and could have dramatic implications for the representation of indigent defendants.
Twenty-four hours after President Obama announced on Saturday that he'll wait for congressional authorization before launching strikes on Syria; members of Congress attended a classified briefing at the Capitol.
For days, most of the discontent among members of Congress has been about not being included in the deliberations on Syria, about not getting the chance to vote. Now that they've gotten their way, each member of Congress will have to go on the record.
Originally published on Sun September 1, 2013 2:46 pm
Secretary of State John Kerry says that tests have shown evidence of Syria's use of the chemical agent sarin in an attack on the opposition last month that the White House has blamed on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"I can share with you today that blood and hair samples that have come to us through an appropriate chain of custody from East Damascus, from first responders, it has tested positive for signatures of sarin," Kerry told CNN on Sunday.
Members of Congress have been arguing for a week that the president should seek their approval on a military response to Syria. Now that Obama has agreed, it may be a case of "careful what you wish for." Guest host Wade Goodwyn asks NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson what Congress might do.
This morning, Secretary of State John Kerry said he has evidence that the Syrian regime used sarin gas. The evidence was found in blood and hair samples gathered by first responders, and is separate from that collected by U.N. inspectors. With us now to talk about the president's announcement yesterday is NPR's Congressional reporter, Ailsa Chang. Good morning, Ailsa.
AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Good morning.
GOODWYN: OK. So, the president got the message. How loud have the cheers been from members of Congress?
This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.
It was a stunner today for pundits on the Potomac. President Obama announced in the Rose Garden that while he has the authority to unilaterally attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons, he won't use it. Only 24 hours after Secretary of State John Kerry made the case for military action, the president made the case for congressional approval.
Tom Cole is a U.S. congressman from Oklahoma. He's a Republican and has served in the Congress since 2003. Congressman Cole, thank you for being with us.
REPRESENTATIVE TOM COLE: Thank you.
LYDEN: Congressman, you signed a letter with more than 100 of your colleagues asking the president to consult with Congress before acting in Syria. Well, President Obama now says he will do exactly that. Are you happy with the president's approach?
With us now to talk about congressional reaction to the president's announcement this afternoon is NPR's congressional reporter Ailsa Chang. Thanks for being with us.
AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: You're welcome. Good to be here.
LYDEN: So it seems the president has been listening to the rancor this week, Ailsa, from members of both parties. What's been the reaction from congressional leaders you've had a chance to speak to since the announcement?
A transcript of President Obama's remarks on possible U.S. military action in Syria, as released by the White House:
Good afternoon, everybody. Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century. Yesterday the United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.
President Obama said Saturday he had decided that the U.S. should take military action against Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons, but that he will seek a congressional authorization for the action that could come "tomorrow, or next week or one month from now."
Speaking from the Rose Garden, the president said he believed that he had the authority to act without Congress, but said, "I know the country will be stronger if we take this course."
Nearly 200 members of Congress have signed letters insisting that the president submit plans for any military strike in Syria for authorization. Host Scott Simon talks with Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, who has signed one of the letters.
While many Americans take time off this weekend, a group of conservative activists are meeting in Florida. Americans for Prosperity, a group that was founded by David and Charles Koch, is holding its annual summit in Orlando. That gathering includes several rising stars among conservatives - Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. But in terms of issues, NPR's Greg Allen reports, one seems to stand above all - stopping Obamacare.
Originally published on Sat August 31, 2013 6:45 am
President Obama's contemplation of a military strike in Syria over its suspected use of chemical weapons has roused at least 170 members of Congress to question the constitutionality of such action, and others to urge caution informed by the quagmire of recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Few congressional voices, however, may be more resonant than those of the more than 100 military veterans in the House and Senate — particularly the 16 who served in the post-Sept. 11 conflicts in the Middle East, in both combat and non-combat roles.
Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 6:07 pm
As President Obama attempts to make good on his threats to punish Syrian officials for crossing a "red line" by allegedly using deadly chemical weapons, he's being buffeted by political crosscurrents.
Some arise from the structure of U.S. democracy itself, and the balance of powers between the branches. Others emerge from the nation's particular state of mind after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Here are six points to keep in mind as Obama considers how best to demonstrate American resolve to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, you tell us more - editor Ammad Omar and I are going to dig in to the listener inbox to hear what you had to say about stories we've covered this week.
President Obama is trying to convince Congress to get on board with his plans for Syria. Thursday night, some key members of Congress heard from top White House officials during a 90 minute phone call.
On Friday, the embattled mayor of San Diego officially steps down. Allegations of sexual harassment against Bob Filner have rocked the eighth-largest American city, which now has to pick up the pieces and elect a new mayor.
The announcement last week that Filner would leave office was greeted with cheers, boos and a flurry of activity from the press — but it all went quiet when the soon-to-be ex-mayor emerged from a swell of bodyguards to speak at the podium.
California's pioneering law that prohibits treating young gay people with psychotherapy in an attempt to change their sexual orientation has cleared a constitutional challenge in federal appeals court. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the ban does not violate essential rights.