David Jackson, USA TODAY
President Obama said Tuesday he believes Congress will vote to authorize military action against Syria, and that he is willing to work with lawmakers on the wording of a specific resolution.
"We have high confidence that Syria used -- in an indiscriminate fashion -- chemical weapons that killed thousands of people, including over 400 children," Obama told reporters before meeting with members of Congress at the White House.
Some lawmakers say a proposed resolution authorizing force is too open-ended; Obama said he is willing to work on the wording as long as it preserves the mission of sending "a clear message" to the government of Bashar al-Assad, "degrading his capabilities to use chemical weapons, not just now but also in the future."
Asked if he's confident about votes in Congress later this month, Obama replied: "I am."
A congressional vote could be close. Some lawmakers have said the United States should not get involved in Syria; others question whether the administration has proven that Assad's government fired chemical weapons at Syrian rebels.
Syria has denied using chemical weapons, attributing an Aug. 21 attack to the rebels themselves.
In brief remarks to reporters, Obama stressed that he envisions a "limited" and "proportional" mission designed to "degrade" Assad's chemical weapons capability.
There will be no U.S. troops in Syria, Obama said: "This is not Iraq -- this is not Afghanistan."
The use of chemical weapons violates "international norms," and increases the possibility that terrorists could eventually obtain such weapons, Obama said.
"That poses a serious national security threat to the United States and to the region and, as a consequence, Assad and Syria needs to be held accountable," Obama said.
The meeting featured a variety of congressional leaders, including the top two Republicans: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Members of armed services and foreign affairs committee also attended the conference in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
It's the the latest in a series of contacts by the White House following Obama's stunning announcement Saturday he would seek congressional authorization before striking at Syria.
"We will be stronger if we take action together, as one nation," Obama said.
In addition to the White House meeting, three key members of Obama's team are scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Obama and Vice President Biden met with the lawmakers just hours before the president departs for a trip to Europe.
After a stop in Stockholm, Sweden, Obama heads to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a Group of 20 nations summit that is likely to be dominated by the Syria question. The G-20 figures to be part of Obama's effort to lobby world leaders on support for a strike at Syria.
The White House announced Tuesday that Obama spoke Monday night with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about "their grave concern" regarding the use of chemical weapons on Syria.
"The two leaders agreed that the use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international norms and cannot be tolerated," the White House said in a statement. "They pledged to continue to consult closely on possible responses by the international community."