This was supposed to be a quiet week in Washington with Congress still on vacation and President Obama jetting off to Russia for the G-20 meetings. Well forget it. The threat of Syrian air-strikes—and Obama's surprise move to seek Congressional approval—changed all that.
The Senate Foreign Relations committee meets Tuesday afternoon in a special session to hear the case for strikes from Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Expect both to get peppered with questions on how limited any strikes will be, what the U.S. expects to accomplish and what the administration will do if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad escalates his attacks on his own people in the face of a U.S. attack.
There is a great deal riding on the answers.
Because if Obama loses votes in Congress on air strikes it would deal a sharp blow to his presidency and possibly weaken his hand in dealing with Republicans later this month on passing a resolution to keep the government open and raising the debt ceiling some time in October. There is also the question of whether failed votes would embolden Assad and further destabilize the Middle East possibly further boosting oil prices and denting economic growth around the world.
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Congress could get called back this week to vote on Syria. If not, votes will likely come next week, cutting into time many thought would be devoted to negotiating a continuing resolution to keep the government running. The legislative calendar is getting very tight to cut fiscal deals.
Also this week: The August jobs report on Friday is expected to show a gain of around 200,000 and no change to the 7.4 percent jobless rate. If the number comes in around that level, the Fed seems likely to remain on track to begin tapering asset purchases at its September meeting. Even if the number comes in slightly week, Fed officials would likely attribute it to seasonal factors likely to get revised up. The number will have to be really bad—or Syria will have to turn into a nightmare—to meaningfully change the Fed's timetable.
— By Ben White, POLITICO's chief economic correspondent and a CNBC contributor. White also authors the daily tip sheet POLITICO Morning Money [politico.com/morningmoney] Follow him onTwitter @morningmoneyben.