Following a meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday morning, President Obama can claim at least one major victory in his effort to get sign-off on military strikes in Syria: House Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor are on board.
Speaker John Boehner, addressing reporters outside the White House after the meeting, issued a flat statement according to CBS News' Major Garrett. "I will support the president in this call for action," Boehner said. And, further, that his colleagues should join that effort.
Boehner's response followed a crowded, early-morning meeting in the White House's Cabinet Room. Before the meeting began, Obama addressed reporters, acknowledging that he was willing to work with Congress on a final authorization for the use of force, but explaining his priorities.
This is a limited, proportional step that will send a clear message not only to the Assad regime, but also to other countries that may be interested in testing some of these international norms, that there are consequences. It gives us the ability to degrade Assad’s capabilities when it comes to chemical weapons. It also fits into a broader strategy that we have to make sure that we can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure required so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability not only to Syria but to the region.
But I want to emphasize once again: What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional.
How Obama's stated willingness to be flexible affected Boehner's decision, if at all, isn't clear. But the result is a clear victory for Obama in his "full court press" for authorization. The speaker is the first senior Republican leader to endorse military strikes — perhaps in part because he is not worried about offending Rep. Justin Amash, a key opponent of strikes and a representative who opposed Boehner's leadership role earlier this year. Boehner's colleague Eric Cantor, majority leader of the House, echoed Boehner's approval, according to a statement on his website.
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. 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.
Matt Drudge was not pleased:
Why would anyone vote Republican? Please give reason. Raised taxes; marching us off to war again; approved more NSA snooping. WHO ARE THEY?!— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) September 3, 2013
After Tuesday's meeting, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, already on-board with action, called efforts to deter the use of weapons of mass destruction "a pillar of our national security." The approval of House Republican leaders, as NBC's Mike O'Brien points out, makes it very much more likely that the House overall will give the OK. Boehner's equivalent in the Senate, however, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has been notably silent on the topic, to his likely 2014 Democratic opponent's delight.
On Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel are scheduled to continue the push for approval, in an appearance at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The president, who's in the weird position of both reserving the right to strike and seeking the OK of Congress, continues to believe he'll get it. Asked by a reporter on Tuesday morning if he was confident that he'd win a vote, Obama replied flatly, "I am." Then, with the press dismissed, Obama began making his case.