Washington in a frenzy ahead of historic vote on Syria action

Storm clouds gather over the US Capitol building in Washington DC Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Fasten your seat belts. This will be some week in Washington.

A Congress with a 17 percent approval rating and widely seen as poisonously partisan and hopelessly dysfunctional will be in the headlines like never before.

It will decide on whether to authorise a military strike on Syria; whether a sitting President will be humiliated and perhaps mortally wounded; and whether America has the appetite to engage once more in combat in the Middle East.

Later today the hearings begin on Capitol Hill. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will debate the options. The White House is engaged in frenzied lobbying.

It seems at this stage that the vote will be close. Republicans and Democrats are split. In fact, splintered. The whole range of views from military hawks to libertarians, from Tea Party conservatives to liberals, will be on display in the coming days.

So expect the debate to ebb and flow, and the vote itself to be a nail-biter. How will war-weary Americans react to all of this? That is one question the White House will be watching closely.

Launching an attack without UN approval or British support is one thing. But to do so without the American people on board, that is a risk of a different order.

Secretary of State John Kerry has called this America's "Munich moment" Credit: Reuters

President Obama is recognised as the greatest campaigner of his generation. I've watched him on the election trail - he can be mesmerising and hugely persuasive.

Now he needs to use these skills on the 100 Senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives.

John Kerry yesterday called this America's "Munich Moment". He is suggesting that inaction in Syria is equivalent to appeasing Hitler.

The Congressional Republicans who hold Obama's fate in their hands must now decide. Do they hate the President so much that they are prepared to cast 'No' votes that will be seen as a victory for Damascus and Tehran?