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Stakes will be high for Obama on Syria

Monday, 9 Sep 2013 | 8:55 AM ET
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Syria remains topic A, B and C in Washington this week with President Barack Obama blanketing the networks with interviews Monday night and addressing the nation from the White House on Tuesday night. Other current and former administration officials—including Hillary Clinton on Monday—will also keep pressing the case for limited strikes against Bashar Assad.

Will the massive administration push alter a Congressional dynamic that has moved strongly against the president? It's possible. The Senate remains a close call but could move Obama's way. The House looks impossible right now but could shift if public opinion moves and the Senate votes to back the president.

The stakes remain extraordinarily high, both for Obama's presidency and the situation on the ground in Syria.

Hard to imagine that Obama will strike without Congressional approval, though he has not ruled it out. The White House does not believe a loss on Syria in Congress would weaken the president's hand in fiscal debates over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling. Republicans think differently. They see an Obama loss on Syria as the beginning of the end of his presidency.

Will US strike Syria without House majority vote?
CNBC's John Harwood and Ben White, CNBC contributor, discuss the likelihood of U.S. action in Syria without the approval of the House of Representatives.

On fiscal matters, Republicans may use the Syria debate as cover to pass a new continuing resolution to fund the government into November without big new cuts. But that big fiscal fight is still coming, probably wrapped in with the debt ceiling. There remains no clear path to a deal that raises the borrowing limit for any significant period of time.

On the Fed front, insiders say Obama has still not settled on a replacement for Ben Bernanke, though former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers remains the front-runner. Some speculated that a Washington Post report on Sunday that Obama may top Treasury's Lael Brainard for an open Fed governor spot was meant to insulate the White House from charges of sexism if the president picks Summers over Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen.

But insiders say the two are in no way connected and nothing is settled, either on Brainard going to the Fed or a Bernanke successor.

ALSO THIS WEEK: The Senate Banking committee holds a hearing on housing finance reform on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. And CFPB Director Richard Cordray testifies before House Financial Services on Thursday at 9:00 a.m. But perhaps most important, your DCMI's Washington Redskins square off tonight in their season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles at Fed-Ex Field. Here's hoping RGIII's knee holds up.

— 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.

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