By Bruce Alpert
Louisiana congressional members are calling on President Barack Obama to consult with Congress before ordering military action in response to Syria's apparent use of chemical weapons against its own people.
"The situation in Syria is extremely serious and should concern the entire world community," said Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge. "It is unacceptable for any nation to use chemical weapons."
Cassidy signed a letter Wednesday with 92 House colleagues, including Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, asking the president to consult and receive authorization before taking any military action.
"The Founders were very clear; Congress must be consulted before the use of military force," Cassidy said.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., called for only limited U.S. intervention.
"The horrendous use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime is unconscionable," Landrieu said. "Any intervention should not further involve the U.S. in the Syrian civil war but only prevent the use of chemical weapons. Should action be taken, it is important that President defines clear goals of an attack and continues consulting with the Congress."
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said he, too, would prefer that the president go to Congress and seek backing for military intervention. The White House said various contingency plans are being developed, with most analysts expecting missile strikes, in conjunction with U.S. allies, against Syrian military assets. Some believe military action is imminent.
Richmond said based on what he knows now he would be likely to give his support. He said the administration has done a good job of documenting Syria's Aug. 21 chemical weapon attack on a suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus.
The attack killed more than 1,300 people, most losing their lives from exposure to toxic gases, according to Syrian rebels.
President Obama said Wednesday there's no doubt chemical weapons were used.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, also called for limited engagement.
"With Syria in the middle of a civil war, any action taken by the United States must be carefully considered in terms of what is in the best interests of our nation and our close allies in the region including Israel," Scalise said. "It's vital that President Obama, as Commander in Chief, consult with our military generals in the field and with Congress before responding to the latest turmoil in Syria."
In an interview Wednesday with the PBS NewsHour, the president said he had not made a specific decision on military action. Still, Obama said it's important the Assad regime receive "a pretty strong signal that, in fact, it better not do it again," though he conceded it's unlikely to stem continued civilian deaths.
"We're consulting with the international community," Obama told PBS. "And you know, I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable."
There's no doubt that Assad used chemical weapons, the president said.
"We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed nuclear weapons on -- or chemical weapons of that sort," Obama told PBS. "We do not believe that, given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out. And if that's so, then there need to be international consequences."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, urged the president Wednesday to make the case to the American public for the need to strike against Syria, and explain his contingency plans, including what to do if Syria and its allies retaliate. He also said the administration should provide its legal justification for military intervention.
Normally, the United States and its allies would seek a resolution from the United Nations Security Council, but that's impossible now because the Russians would veto such a resolution.
Earlier this week, Sen. David Vitter, R-La, said that he agrees with Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria's chemical attack on its own people required a military response.