"The president of course has the authority to act" even if Congress does not support his plan for a military strike on Syria, White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep earlier today.
But Blinken also said of the president that it is "neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him."
Blinken's reference to the president's intentions is getting attention because the question of what happens if Congress says "no" has been much debated since Obama asked lawmakers to give him the green light.
On Wednesday, as we wrote, the president said he did not ask Congress to authorize the use of force against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime "as a symbolic gesture," but added that "I always reserve the right and responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security."
Update at 10:35 a.m. ET. Obama Is Asked About Blinken's Comment:
At a news conference now underway in St. Petersburg, Russia, a reporter just told the president that one of his advisers said today that it's "not your intention" to strike Syria if Congress opposes such action.
"I don't think that's exactly what he said," Obama responds, as he again declines to give a yes-or-no answer about what he will do if Congress turns him down.
Update at 10:22 a.m. ET. Will He Go Ahead If Congress Says No? Obama Doesn't Directly Answer:
Asked at a news conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, whether he still might order strikes against Syria even if Congress does not give him the green light, Obama says he knew it was "going to be a heavy lift" when he asked lawmakers for such authorization. Then Obama says it would "be a mistake for me to jump the gun and speculate" about what would happen if his request is rejected.
Continuing on that subject, Obama adds that he didn't "put this before Congress just as a political ploy or as symbolism." But he does not give a flat yes-or-no in response to the question.