"After weeks of claiming he could and would make this decision on his own, the president's announcement today marks an astonishing change of course. While congressional approval is the best course of action and the right thing to do, it would have been the right course of action months ago."
And Senate Intelligence Committee vice-chairman Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia, said "the United States must respond" to the alleged chemical attack, but should have been called back early.
"He should have already presented Congress with a strategy and objectives for military action, including what impact this will have on our allies and enemies alike in the region," Chambliss said. "Leadership is about reacting to a crisis, and quickly making the hard and tough decisions. The president should have demanded Congress return immediately and debate this most serious issue."
At least three other members of the House and Senate also demanded Congress be called back early.
One Republican blasted Obama for "abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents.
"The president does not need Congress to authorize a strike on Syria," said Rep. Peter King of New York. "If Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians deserves a military response, and I believe it does, and if the Ppesident is seeking congressional approval, then he should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date. The president doesn't need 535 members of congress to enforce his own redline."
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, however, said "the president's role as commander-in-chief is always strengthened when he enjoys the expressed support of the Congress."
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said the request for congressional authorization "is absolutely the right decision, and I look forward to seeing what the administration brings forward and to a vigorous debate on this important authorization. Further, now that the president has decided to use force and seek authorization, it is imperative that he immediately begins using every ounce of his energy to make his case to the American people."
Obama's statement puts on hold military action that as recently as Saturday morning seemed like it could be imminent.
On Friday, Kerry detailed the administration's case against al-Assad in a methodically-constructed address at the State Department. Shortly after, Obama described himself and the country as "war-weary," but said his team was "looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria, but others around the world, understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban and norm."
United Nations investigators departed Syria early Saturday, and word of a series of congressional briefings emerged.
Senators were to be briefed on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday, both times by phone. Boehner's office Sunday afternoon classified briefing for House members.
In the meantime
Following the statement, key members of Obama's national security team were to speak with Republican and Democratic members of the Senate in separate conference calls. Sources said the calls would include Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
That call would be unclassified, apparently so the many members outside of Washington this Labor Day weekend could join from unsecure telephone lines.
One Republican senator on that call told CNN several senators on that call asked why the U.S. could wait for a vote, allowing Syria to prepare for possible airstrikes.
Administration officials said they could not answer those questions on the unsecured line, but would explain their comfort in waiting in a classified setting.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said Obama "wisely chose to seek congressional support."
"I have again urged the president to use this time to help the Syrian people defend themselves by assisting vetted elements of the Syrian opposition in obtaining more effective weapons such as anti-tank weapons," Levin said in a statement.
After stepping away from the cameras, Obama and Biden changed out of their suits and went golfing.