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Obama Making Pitch To Indecisive Lawmakers While In Russia

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Despite being in Russia, President Barack Obama is still pitching to Congressional lawmakers why a U.S. military strike on Syria is warranted.

Obama, who is in St. Petersburg, Russia for the G-20 economic summit, is calling indecisive lawmakers to authorize a vote to launch a military strike against President Bashar Assad’s regime.

“He is going to be doing outreach on the Hill,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told CBS News.

Obama has much lobbying to do. According to The Associated Press, 34 senators are supporting or leaning toward military action, 26 are opposed or leaning against and 40 remain undecided. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Wednesday 10-7 to authorize the use of force in Syria. The full Senate is expected to vote next week.

Sen. David Vitter, said Thursday that he will vote against a U.S. military strike in Syria, becoming the second member of Louisiana’s congressional delegation to register opposition to President Barack Obama’s proposal.

The remaining members in the state’s congressional delegation, including Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, say they are undecided about Obama’s proposed military intervention against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Vitter, a Republican, announced his decision a day after he participated in a classified briefing as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

“As horrible as events in Syria are, they do not pose a direct threat to the United States or our allies. U.S. military action could spark a broader war and/or entangle us in Syria’s protracted civil war in which elements of the opposition are even worse than the Assad regime, all while our troops are underfunded,” Louisiana’s junior senator said in a statement.

Vitter joins GOP Rep. John Fleming of Minden in opposing U.S. intervention.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said in a statement he too is against military action.

“I am greatly concerned that in order to achieve the president’s goal, the U.S. would be required to become much more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war than the administration is willing to commit,” Lee said. “The real threat to U.S. credibility is not what happens if we don’t intervene, but what happens if we do without a plan for what comes next.”

The Obama administration blames Assad for an Aug. 21 alleged chemical weapons attack against Syrian residents in a rebel-held area of the country. The U.S. says the attack killed more than 1,400 people. Other casualty estimates are lower.

Vitter said a more serious and direct threat to the United States is Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

“I am extremely concerned that getting involved in Syria, after Iraq and Afghanistan, would make mustering our resolve to stop a nuclear Iran impossible,” he said.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson says too many questions about possible military action in Syria remain for him to support it right now.

Johnson voted in committee Wednesday against authorizing limited use of U.S. armed forces against Syria.

The Republican said in a statement that the vote was taken only 25 hours after formal hearings began and so many questions remained that he “could not even consider voting ‘yes.'”

Johnson says Obama must show why military action in Syria is in the U.S.’s national security interest. He says he will keep an open mind until he casts his final vote.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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