President Obama will address the nation Tuesday night on possible military action against the Syrian government by the United States. In advance, he was on Capitol Hill speaking with Congress.
In separate morning meetings with Senate Democrats and Republicans, the President reportedly laid out the administration's options for military action now that it has accepted the Russian proposal for the United Nations to lead discussions about the international community taking charge of Syria's chemical weapons.
On the House side, it was standing room only in the Democratic Caucus meeting as White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough briefed members.
After the briefing, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the Russian proposal has muscle because of the prospect of military action from the United States. And while she’s grateful the President came to Congress to ask for the authority to carry out military action against the Assad regime, Pelosi noted the President still has the power to take action on his own. "If he sees an opportunity," she said, "we don’t want the Russians to think that his leverage is diminished because of a vote we may or may not succeed with in the Congress." Pelosi calls the Russian offer “good news,” adding she hopes it will work.
Congresswoman Karen Bass of Los Angeles has been silent on the topic of Syria — until now. A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Bass heard from the President himself Monday at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus. Bass is encouraged by the Russian proposal, saying there's "a door that's opening, and frankly I think we should drive a truck right through that door." She has concerns this is a stalling tactic, saying this is why the international community must put pressure on both Assad and Russia.
Loretta Sanchez, who represents parts of Orange and L.A. counties and is a senior member of both the House Armed Services and Homeland Securities committees, said on KPCC's "Take Two": "It is a lot easier to vote to go to war than it is not to. It's easy to think, 'Oh, we'll just use our military.' But our military is just one of the tools we use, and I think we have overused it, and we have to be very smart on how to use it."
Republicans are also weighing in on the Russian proposal. Huntington Beach Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said "it's about time that we looked at Putin as having something to contribute." He said we've demonized Putin as a "Communist thug" and haven't utilized his talents and influence "for the benefit of mankind."
Fullerton Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the removal of chemical weapons "resolves a number of difficulties for the international community." Royce said "It seems logical that there would be an interest in cooperating to prevent chemical weapons from being dispersed that might end up in the hands of foreign fighters that could take them back [to Russia]."
GOP Congressman Ken Calvert of Riverside still has lots of questions about the Russian proposal. He said he "hasn't seen it, don't know what it is, don't know how they would do it."
The President's proposal to take military action doesn't appear to have many California votes. Irvine Republican John Campbell is a vigorous "no" on a military response. He attended Monday night's closed door security briefing, but said he takes that information with a grain of salt.
Campbell says the White House offers information intended to drive lawmakers to a conclusion the administration has in mind. "I've been here long enough to be jaundiced," he said. "It's called 'a classified hearing.' My experience has been that it's often just a sales pitch With the veneer of it being classified. Often times much of what they say was in the L.A. Times two weeks earlier."
The President addresses the nation tonight at 6 pm PDT.