Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., had a more measured response. “I have again urged the president to use this time to help the Syrian people defend themselves by assisting vetted elements of the Syrian opposition in obtaining more effective weapons such as anti-tank weapons,” he said.
Some Republicans questioned the need for military action, while others criticized Obama for delaying seeking consent. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., called Obama’s statement “an astonishing change of course…it would have been the right course of action months ago.”
And Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he remained “concerned that the mission proposed by the president is not in furtherance of the vital national security interests of the United States.”
Recent tradition shows that war debates usually last about a week. President George H. W. Bush got authority to use force to push Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991, after the U.N. Security Council unanimously called for Iraq to leave.
Ten years later, George W. Bush won approval to use force against those who were involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In October, 2002, he got congressional consent for military action against Iraq, after months of U.N. pressure on Iraq to disarm.
In addition to the congressional debate, Obama faces international reluctance to back the mission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in Saturday for the first time since the suspected chemical weapons attack. Russia is a key ally of the Syrian regime.
Putin appealed to Obama as a past Nobel Peace Prize winner. “We have to remember what has happened in the last decades, how many times the United States has been the initiator of armed conflict in different regions of the world,” he told Russian journalists, according to Associated Press. “Did this resolve even one problem?”
He said he hoped to discuss the crisis with Obama during the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia Sept. 5 and 6.
In New York, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky also looked ahead, telling reporters that officials were spending Saturday organizing samples for further testing. Before the U.N. can draw any conclusions, he said, “the laboratory process must be completed.”
While U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked for a quick turnaround, Nesirky emphasized "We are not giving a timeline."
The U.N. inspectors have been investigating Damascus-area sites. They spent three days observing affected areas and another day talking to patients at a military hospital.
They left Syria Saturday and headed to the Netherlands, with victims’ blood and urine samples, as well as soil samples.