Busy week of Syria discussions ahead
Congress will vote on President Obama's request to authorize force in Syria
Labor Day begins a busy of week of discussions on whether the United States should use military force to punish the Syrian government for the reported use of chemical weapons in its civil war.
Congress will not vote on President Barack Obama's request to authorize the use of force until after it officially returns from recess September 9.
Here is what is expected this week:
• Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough are expected to call House and Senate members, trying to firm up commitments ahead of the congressional vote. This is on top of a conference call that administration officials will have with House Democrats -- part of a strategy to "flood the zone," according to a senior administration official.
In the calls, the official said, the White House will be making the same case it did during a classified Capitol Hill briefing Sunday: Failure to take action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad unravels the deterrent impact of the international norm against chemical weapons use. It also risks emboldening al-Assad and his key allies, Hezbollah and Iran, who will see that there are no consequences for such a flagrant violation.
• Obama will also meet with Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham at the White House. "I want to find out whether there is a plan and a strategy," McCain said.
• Internationally, France's prime minister will consult with the ministers of foreign affairs and defense. French President Francois Hollande appears to be on Obama's side, but "France cannot act alone," Interior Minister Manuel Valls told Europe Radio 1 on Sunday. "There must be a coalition."
• There are two other events scheduled where the topic of Syria is likely to come up: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at the Institute for International Relations in Moscow. (Russia has opposed military intervention.) And NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen holds his monthly news conference.
• Meanwhile, samples collected by United Nations weapons inspectors in Syria will be delivered to laboratories, according to Martin Nesirky, spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
• The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans an open hearing on Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will appear. Earlier, the panel receives a classified briefing.
• Obama meets with House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and leaders of the key congressional national security committees.
• The French Parliament will hold an open debate on Syria.
• The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a classified hearing on Syria.
• The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Syria. Kerry will appear.