Nightly News   |  September 04, 2013

Congressional stage set for showdown over Syria intervention

President Obama got a boost today in a key Senate committee. Now, his plan faces a fierce debate in the House. Will Tea Party Republicans and liberal Democrats join forces against the White House? NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> now back to what we said at the top of the broadcast about washington and the conversation going on there. the huge lobbying effort by the obama team to get a yes vote on this military strike . our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell covering from our d.c. newsroom tonight. andrea, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. the president's proposed air strikes did get past the first hurdle in a key senate committee today, but the president is still facing a fierce debate in the house as tea party republicans and liberal democrats joined forces against the white house . the war continued today with the government battering rebel forces near damascus. as congress fought political wars in both houses, a sharply divided senate foreign relations committee voted to support the president, 10-7, but added time limits. 90 days for military action and to satisfy john mccain the white house has to deliver a strategy for syria within 30 days . the house was even tougher. as members asked the questions voters are asking why should syria matter to them?

>> why is it always america out front? i know we've got the best military, and i'm very proud of that, but why are we out leading this again?

>> ever been to the cemetery in france, you know, above those beaches? why did those guys have to go do that? because we were standing up with people for a set of values and fighting for freedom.

>> not a one member in my district in south carolina or the e-mails of people that have contacted my office say go to syria and fight this regime. to a letter they say no.

>> i am not going to sit here and be told by you that i don't have a sense of what the judgment is with respect to this.

>> reporter: members have doubts about the rebels.

>> who are the good guys over there in syria ?

>> you're referring to the opposition, i assume.

>> do you implicitly trust these people.

>> that's not my business to trust anybody.

>> certainly it has to be the business because you're making decisions to go into war and put american lives at risk.

>> reporter: and they have doubts saying they were lied to about iraq.

>> i want to make sure that you promise us that you're telling the truth.

>> congressman, i am proud and perfectly willing to tell you that everything that i've said is the truth.

>> reporter: most members don't want to go it alone. today russia's president putin dangled the idea of supporting a u.n. vote for military action but still does not believe the u.s. evidence of a kept chemical attack by the regime. today defense secretary hagel told congress that the air strikes could cost tens of millions of dollars, but secretary kerry then said that arab leaders have offered to pay the full cost . brian.

>> andrea mitchell rounding out our coverage in d.c. tonight, andrea, thanks.