Kerry says US has evidence sarin gas was used in Syria
WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State John Kerry asserted on Sunday that the United States now has evidence of sarin gas use in Syria and said "the case gets stronger by the day" for a military attack.
A day after President Barack Obama stepped back from his threat to launch an attack, Mr Kerry said in a series of interviews on the Sunday news shows that the administration learned of the sarin use within the past 24 hours through samples of hair and blood provided to Washington by first responders in Damascus.
Mr Kerry also said he was confident that Congress will give Mr Obama its backing for an attack against Syria, but he also said the President has the authority to act on his own if Congress does not give its approval.
While Mr Kerry stopped short of saying Mr Obama was committed to such a course even if lawmakers refuse to authorise force, he did tell ABC television's This Week that "we are not going to lose this vote".
Mr Kerry said Mr Obama has the right to take action against Syria, with or without Congress' approval, but he stopped short of saying Mr Obama was committed to such a course even if lawmakers refuse to authorise force.
Congress is scheduled to return from a summer break on Sept 9.
Republican Representative Peter King, who criticised Obama for not proceeding immediately against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the President may have trouble winning the backing of Congress.
"I think it is going to be difficult," said Mr King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, adding that there is an "isolationist" tendency in his Republican caucus.
Republican Senator Rand Paul said he thinks the Senate "will rubber-stamp what he (Obama) wants, but I think the House will be a much closer vote".
Mr Paul said he believes "it's at least 50-50 whether the House will vote down involvement in the Syrian war". But Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called the evidence, including the fresh finding on sarin gas, "convincing and getting better".
Mr Rogers predicted that "at the end of the day, Congress will rise to the occasion", but he also said "it's going to take that healthy debate to get there".
"This isn't about Barack Obama versus the Congress. This isn't about Republicans versus Democrats. This has a very important worldwide reach in this decision," he said.