WASHINGTON - Pushing for airstrikes in Syria almost exactly one year ago, President Obama found almost no support from Philadelphia-area lawmakers.

But two beheadings of journalists by the rising extremist group known as ISIS - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - have changed the attitudes of many voters, and local members of Congress.

As Obama prepares a 9 p.m. address Wednesday to lay out plans to confront ISIS, Democrats and Republicans alike say their constituents are worried about the group, and many of the region's representatives now support military intervention.

"The graphic torture of the reporters was a turning point in the sentiments of a lot of people, and I began to hear significantly more discussion about ISIS and the issues in Syria and Iraq," said Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.)

Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) said he heard "increasing anxiety" from constituents.

"There's no question after a long, long period of wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, people are really war-weary, but there's also a recognition that ISIS is an extraordinarily dangerous threat," Toomey said.

"People recognize that we have to find a way to eliminate that threat," he said. "It should not require American troops on the ground in significant numbers, but it probably does require other types of American assets, like intelligence and airstrikes."

He and Meehan said Obama had moved too slowly, while Democrats credited the president for building a coalition with allies.

A poll released Tuesday showed the rising support for military action: 71 percent of Americans back airstrikes in Iraq, up from 54 percent three weeks ago, according to a Washington Post-ABC News survey.

And while U.S. strikes there have gone on for several weeks, the poll found 65 percent support for the more drastic step of expanding the strikes into Syria.

Still, some lawmakers are waiting to hear more from Obama.

"The president needs to present a strategy that can convince me and the American people of what actions are truly needed to defeat these extremists," said Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.). "He needs to be clear about it, he needs to work with both parties, because it's extremely important that we speak with one voice."

Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County, plans to introduce a bill to impose sanctions on foreign banks that do business with ISIS and on U.S. citizens or corporations that do business with groups with financial ties to ISIS.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was one of the few lawmakers who supported bombing in Syria a year ago amid evidence of chemical-weapons use against rebels there.

Now, Menendez said, he needs to hear the president's strategy to determine what steps are needed.

"Once you have the strategy, then you can have the wherewithal to understand what would it take to achieve the implementation of that strategy," Menendez said.

He plans to chair hearings on the issue next week with Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Even among supporters of expanded U.S. action, none wanted a full-fledged troop deployment. They said ground combat should be handled by allies such as the Iraqis, Kurds, or moderate Syrian groups, while U.S. intelligence operatives and special forces could be involved.

"There's a really bright line between that kind of personnel and combat troops," said Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.). "I don't think combat troops make sense here, nor do I think they're necessary."

There was a split on whether the president should seek a congressional vote on a fight some believe could last years.

Toomey and Fitzpatrick each said yes.

Meehan said Obama will have to ask for financial support, but the Delaware County Republican urged action without waiting for a vote. "It would delay the action that's necessary for him to do what he needs to do as the commander in chief," Meehan said.

There is not enough time for a thoughtful debate, Casey said. (Congress will likely wrap up its work next week.) And with fall elections looming, he said, "we are kidding ourselves" to envision a serious debate on national security in a charged political atmosphere.

"Anyone who doesn't acknowledge that is living in a fantasy world," Casey said.

He backed the idea of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Long focused on Middle East issues, Casey said he can tell from some lawmakers' statements on television that they need more time.

"Members of Congress, frankly, don't know enough yet, in my judgment, to have the kind of intelligent debate national security questions warrant," he said.

@JonathanTamari

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