House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) emerged from a congressional meeting with President Obama this morning in favor of the White House’s call for action against the Assad regime.
“I am going to support the president’s call for action,” Boehner said, adding “this is something the country needs to do.”
“The use of these weapons has to be responded to,” he told reporters.
“The Speaker offered his support for the president’s call to action, and encourages all Members of Congress to do the same. Now, it is the president’s responsibility to make his case to the American people and their elected representatives,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “Everyone understands that it is an uphill battle to pass a resolution, and the Speaker expects the White House to provide answers to Members’ questions and take the lead on any whipping effort. All votes authorizing the use of military force are conscience votes for members, and passage will require direct, continuous engagement from the White House.”
Boehner wrote Obama nearly a week ago asking for answers to several questions about possible intervention in Syria.
“I have conferred with the chairmen of the national security committees who have received initial outreach from senior Administration officials, and while the outreach has been appreciated, it is apparent from the questions above that the outreach has, to date, not reached the level of substantive consultation,” the speaker wrote then. “It will take Presidential leadership and a clear explanation of our policy, our interests, and our objectives to gain public and Congressional support for any military action against Syria. After spending the last 12 years fighting those who seek to harm our fellow citizens, our interests, and our allies, we all have a greater appreciation of what it means for our country to enter into conflict. It will take that public support and congressional will to sustain the Administration’s efforts, and our military, as well as their families, deserve to have the confidence that we collectively have their backs – and a thorough strategy in place.”
After Obama announced Saturday that he would seek authorization from Congress, Boehner said in a joint statement with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) that “under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress.”
“We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised,” the GOP leaders said. “In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th. This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people.”
Both Democrats and Republicans have reportedly been informed that they will not be whipped on the vote and can go whichever way they choose.
Boehner encouraged his colleagues to support the president on Syria, though.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also said she’s backing Obama on strikes.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) urged Obama to make his case “not only to Congress, but to the American people in a national address.”
“I appreciate President Obama holding a meeting today at the White House. Unfortunately, many questions are still left unanswered,” Cornyn said. “The president needs to explain in detail what vital national interests are at stake, his plan for securing these interests and a clear definition of what success looks like in Syria.”