As President Barack Obama continues to formulate a response to the apparent use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, senior Obama Administration officials will hold a briefing for congressional lawmakers on Thursday on the range of retaliatory options, a White House official told TIME.
The Administration will brief the congressional leadership of both parties, the official said, as well as the chairs and ranking members of the relevant national-security subcommittees. Administration officials have already held consultations with key members of Congress, but some, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, have requested additional information about the President’s objectives in Syria.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden repeated on Wednesday evening that the President has yet to make a decision on how to respond to the attack, which killed hundreds of Syrians on the outskirts of Damascus.
“The President continues to review options with his national-security team, and senior Administration officials from the White House, State Department, Defense Department and Intelligence Community are continuing to reach out to bipartisan House and Senate leadership, leadership of the relevant committees, and other members of Congress,” Hayden said hours after Boehner sent a letter to the White House requesting additional information about the responses under consideration. “The views of the Congress are important to this process, so we will be continuing to engage with them as the President reaches a decision on the appropriate U.S. response.”
A senior Administration official said as soon as the intelligence community develops a formal assessment of the chemical-weapons attack, the Administration will provide that classified information to Congress. The official added that a nonclassified version would be released to the public — most likely before the end of the week.
In an interview with PBS NewsHour on Wednesday, Obama defended his most likely course of action — a carefully limited air strike designed to punish the Assad regime, but not precipitate regime change — from criticism that it may be too timid.
“I have not made a decision,” Obama told Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. “But I think it’s important that if, in fact, we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal, that in fact, it better not do it again. And that doesn’t solve all the problems inside of Syria, and, you know, it doesn’t obviously end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria.”