House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he expected the House to consider the measure the week of Sept. 9. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he, too, will hold a vote no later than the week of Sept. 9, with public hearings starting next week.
Republicans generally expressed satisfaction at Obama’s decision to seek congressional support, and challenged him to make his case to the public and lawmakers alike that American power should be used to punish Assad.
‘‘We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised,’’ Boehner and other House Republican leaders said in a joint statement.
New York Republican Rep. Peter King was among the dissenters, strongly so. ‘‘President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander in chief and undermining the authority of future presidents,’’ he said. ‘‘The president doesn’t need 535 members of Congress to enforce his own red line.’’
For now, it appeared that the administration’s effort at persuasion was already well underway.
The administration plunged into a series of weekend briefings for lawmakers, both classified and unclassified, and Obama challenged lawmakers to consider ‘‘what message will we send to a dictator’’ if he is allowed to kill hundreds of children with chemical weapons without suffering any retaliation.
At the same time, a senior State Department official said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Syrian Opposition Coalition President Ahmed Assi al-Jarba to underscore Obama’s commitment to holding the Assad government accountable for the Aug. 21 attack.
Obama said Friday he was considering ‘‘limited and narrow’’ steps to punish Assad, adding that U.S. national security interests were at stake. He pledged no U.S. combat troops on the ground in Syria, where a civil war has claimed more than 100,000 civilian lives.
In Syria, some rebels expressed unhappiness with the president, one rebel commander said he did not consider Obama’s decision to be a retreat. ‘‘On the contrary, he will get the approval for congress and then the military action will have additional credibility,’’ said Qassem Saadeddine.
‘‘Just because the strike was delayed by few days doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen,’’ he said.
With Obama struggling to gain international backing for a strike, Putin urged him to reconsider his plans. ‘‘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, said Putin, a strong Assad ally. ‘‘Did this resolve even one problem?’’
Even the administration’s casualty estimate was grist for controversy.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization that monitors casualties in the country, said it has confirmed 502 deaths, nearly 1,000 fewer than the American intelligence assessment claimed.
Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the organization, said he was not contacted by U.S. officials about his efforts to collect information about the death toll in the Aug. 21 attacks.
‘‘America works only with one part of the opposition that is deep in propaganda,’’ he said, and urged the Obama administration to release the information its estimate is based on.
Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Josh Lederman, Matthew Lee and Kimberly Dozier in Washington; Zeina Karam, Yasmine Saker and Karin Laub in Beirut; and Geir Mouslon in Berlin contributed to this report.