Boehner, Cantor Support Military Strike Against Syria

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House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, stands with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., as they meet with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, following a Republican strategy session. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)  
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Sept. 3, 2013, 8:38 a.m.

The House’s top two Re­pub­lic­ans ex­pressed sup­port Tues­day for Pres­id­ent Obama’s call for mil­it­ary ac­tion against Syr­ia, while key Cab­in­et of­fi­cials pre­pared to press the case for au­thor­iz­a­tion of an at­tack be­fore the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee.

House Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, R-Va., both made their sup­port known after they joined oth­er law­makers in a meet­ing with Obama and Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden at the White House. Oth­er law­makers at the meet­ing in­cluded House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal­if., Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky., and chairs of some con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees.

Boehner told re­port­ers at the White House after the meet­ing that “only the United States has the cap­ab­il­ity and the ca­pa­city to stop [Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-] As­sad and to warn oth­ers around the world that this type of be­ha­vi­or is not go­ing to be tol­er­ated.”

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the pres­id­ent reach­ing out to me and my col­leagues in the Con­gress over the last couple of weeks. I also ap­pre­ci­ate the pres­id­ent ask­ing the Con­gress to sup­port him in this ac­tion,” Boehner said. “This is something that the United States, as a coun­try, needs to do. I’m go­ing to sup­port the pres­id­ent’s call for ac­tion. I be­lieve that my col­leagues should sup­port this call for ac­tion.

Later, Boehner spokes­man Mi­chael Steel fol­lowed up the speak­er’s com­ments with a state­ment that “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.”

Can­tor an­nounced in a state­ment, “I in­tend to vote to provide the pres­id­ent of the United States the op­tion to use mil­it­ary force in Syr­ia.”

“While the au­thor­iz­ing lan­guage will likely change, the un­der­ly­ing real­ity will not,” said Can­tor. “Amer­ica has a com­pel­ling na­tion­al se­cur­ity in­terest to pre­vent and re­spond to the use of weapons of mass de­struc­tion, es­pe­cially by a ter­ror­ist state such as Syr­ia, and to pre­vent fur­ther in­stabil­ity in a re­gion of vi­tal in­terest to the United States.”

Pelosi, who already has backed mil­it­ary ac­tion — and has even said she does not be­lieve con­gres­sion­al au­thor­iz­a­tion was ne­ces­sary — told re­port­ers out­side the White House that she be­lieves rank-and-file law­makers will fol­low their lead­ers in sup­port “based on the evid­ence, the in­tel­li­gence, the na­tion­al in­terest that is at stake.”

In his own re­marks after meet­ing with the law­makers, Obama again stressed to re­port­ers that the mil­it­ary ac­tion he en­vi­sions is based on the “high con­fid­ence” his ad­min­is­tra­tion has that As­sad’s re­gime used chem­ic­al weapons in an at­tack against his own people last month and that the U.S. ac­tion would be a “lim­ited, pro­por­tion­al step.”

“It does not in­volve boots on the ground. This is not Ir­aq, and this is not Afgh­anistan,” Obama said. He ad­ded that he was con­fid­ent that Con­gress will au­thor­ize ac­tion, “so long as we are ac­com­plish­ing what needs to be ac­com­plished, which is to send a clear mes­sage to As­sad de­grad­ing his cap­ab­il­it­ies to use chem­ic­al weapons.”

A Sen­ate hear­ing later Tues­day could provide a gauge of how con­fid­ent the ad­min­is­tra­tion should really be in get­ting con­gres­sion­al ap­prova — a shift from what last week had ini­tially seemed to be a de­term­in­a­tion to move ahead with a strike, re­gard­less. In­stead, the ad­min­is­tra­tion is en­gaged in an all-out blitz to make its case, not just to law­makers but to the Amer­ic­an pub­lic.

Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry, De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel, and Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were set to ap­pear Tues­day af­ter­noon be­fore the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee. Kerry and Hagel also are to ap­pear be­fore the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day. Oth­er meet­ings are ex­pec­ted to be held throughout the week, some closed.

“I’m con­fid­ent we’re go­ing to be able to come up with something that hits the mark,” Obama said of the con­sulta­tions with Con­gress.

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