Spin Cycle

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On Syria vote King tells White House: It's up to the president

It's up to President Barack Obama to sell the Syria strike to House Republicans, not us, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he told White House chief of staff Denis McDonough today as McDonough sought his advice in a meeting today.

President Barack Obama and his administration are putting on a full-court press to persuade Congress to pass an authorization for him to use military action against Syria for what the White House says was the Assad regime's use of sarin gas on Aug. 21 to kill more than 1,400 of its citizens.

McDonough also met with Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a member of Democratic House leadership.

King said he got a call last night from McDonough's office inviting him and six other supportive Republicans in to the White House today.

"This was mainly him looking for input from us on how to influence Republicans," King said. 

"We told him that there was not much chance for us to do it individually," King said. Instead, he said he told McDonough, "The president has to change the tone."

"We said there are Republicans who do believe that action has to be taken but they don’t have faith he’ll be carry it out," King said.

King also said Republicans are confused now about just what kind of military action the Obama administration is contemplating, after Secretary of State John Kerry in London today called the strike on Syria would be "unbelievably small."

"I'm not sure what it is," King said of the military action. "They have to make it clear."

But King said he thinks 90 percent of the members of Congress now accept the evidence that the Assad regime used sarin gas on its citizens. 

Now, he said, the president "has to show that it is in America's national interest" by showing Americans that by taking action now the U.S. will avoid having to take action in the future, possibly even in Iran.

Obama will have a platform to do just that through half a dozen interviews with major TV networks today and in a nationally televised speech to the country tomorrow night.

King has repeatedly, and harshly, criticized Obama for mishandling Syria and the issue of its chemical weapons by staking out a position and then backing off. King said Obama should have just launched the attack instead of taking it to Congress for a vote.

Tags: Pete King , Steve Israel , Denis McDonough , John Kerry

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