You want it, you got it.
That's President Barack Obama's message to Congress in providing debate and a vote on whether the United States should take military action in Syria. Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, the president said in his Saturday Rose Garden remarks that he would congressional approval for strikes to halt Assad regime chemical weapons attacks. Although he maintained he does not need to.
The risks for the Obama administration are obvious. Simply put, they could lose the vote. That's what happened with British Prime Minister David Cameron put the question of force-in-Syria to a parliamentary vote. A fair number of legislators from his own coalition defected and voted against their leader. Cameron on Saturday offered this view of Obama's move to have Congress debate and vote on Syria.
I understand and support Barack Obama's position on #Syria.- David Cameron (@David_Cameron) August 31, 2013
House Republican leadership said in a joint statement that they expect its chamber to consider an authorization measure the week of Sept. 9, a timeline that would give Obama time to "make his case to Congress and the American people."
"Under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress," said Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. "We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised."
But Senate leaders have made no decision yet. The second-ranking Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, has called for senators to return early to Washington to vote on an authorization measure.
Whenever the votes actually take place, Obama is likely to face a certain level in opposition in Congress from anti-war Democrats. They'll usually oppose most any use of U.S. military action.
One notable exception is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). The former speaker, once an unstinting critic of the Iraq war, has voiced support for military action in Syria to stop the slaughter of innocents.
A crucial question for the Obama administration is how many Senate and House Republicans will grant support for action in Syria. While the modern GOP is known for a robust internationalism, when Democratic presidents are in the White House Republicans often take a more non-interventionist approach.
That's been the case in the pre-World War II "America First" era. Through the Clinton administration's 1999 air strikes in Kosovo to stop a genocide. And into the Obama administration.
During the George W. Bush presidency congressional Republicans largely deferred to the notion of the "unitary executive" who had the sole power to drive foreign policy decisions. After 9/11 members of Congress gave Bush wide latitude abroad.
All but one currently-serving House Republican, John J. Duncan (Tenn.) voted for the October 2002 Iraq resolution. Another GOP lawmaker, Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.), has abandoned his pro-war stance of the time and can be expected to vote against the Syria resolution.
But by having to vote at all President Obama has put Congress on the hook. Lawmakers will now have buy-in to his Syria policy. Whether it goes well or terribly.
Obama's action is consistent with his views he expressed when he was a senator from Illinois and George W. Bush was president. And it is in line with American public opinion. In an NBC News poll released this week, nearly eight in 10 Americans said he should seek congressional authorization before striking Syria.
It also puts members of Congress and leaders in other nations on the spot to put up or shut up - to back military action or explain why not. "All of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote," the president said.
After Obama's Rose Garden comments Saturday, Commentary Editor John Podhoretz expressed skepticism over the strategy:
On the face of it, this is literally nonsensical. If Obama has the authority, he does not need congressional authorization, and since he is characterizing his need to act in moral terms, a useful punitive strike in the midst of a civil war in which thousands can be killed in a day must as a moral matter be undertaken as soon as possible in order to punish the regime and degrade its ability to kill its own people at will. Instead, he has declared his intention to wait until Congress comes back in session - in eight days - and then debate the matter for a couple of days and then vote. At which time he will act. Unless of course it votes against him. In which case...what? He has said he has the authority to strike; what does he do then?