A senior State Department official says US President Barack Obama has made up his mind to attack Syria even without congressional approval.
“That’s going to happen, anyway,” the unnamed official said in an interview with Fox News.
The official added that that was why Obama, in his Rose Garden remarks over the weekend, was careful to establish that he believes he has the authority to launch a military attack on Syria without congressional authorization.
In a speech about Syria last week, President Obama said he will seek authorization from Congress when federal lawmakers return from recess on September 9.
"While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific Congressional authorization, I know the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective," Obama said.
The State Department official said Obama’s decision to seek a congressional vote was a surprise to members of the National Security Council, but insisted the request for Congress to vote did not supplant the president’s earlier decision to use force in Syria, only delayed its implementation.
When asked what Obama would do in the event that Congress refuses to give its consent, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday, "The president has taken his decision."
"I think this is a smart decision by the president. ... He is not trying to create an imperial presidency," Kerry said. "I believe that in the end, Congress will do what is right."
Meanwhile, Obama is trying to rally support among US congressmen and senators for military strikes against Syria. He invited hawkish Senator John McCain to the White House on Monday in order to help sell the idea of a US military intervention in Syria.
Following the meeting, McCain said a Congressional vote against military action would be "catastrophic."
The United States accuses the Syrian government of a chemical weapons attack, an allegation denied by Damascus.
US Navy warships are still on standby in the eastern Mediterranean ready to launch missiles on Syrian targets.
On Sunday, Congress began a series of meetings that are expected to continue over the next several days in preparation for a vote once lawmakers return from summer break.