John Boehner backs Obama on Syria. Will rest of GOP follow suit?
House Speaker John Boehner, as well as House majority leader Eric Cantor, announced after meeting Tuesday with President Obama their endorsement of a congressional resolution authorizing a Syria strike.
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Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, once Mr. Obama’s White House rival, is appearing to be perhaps his greatest potential advocate in selling the administration’s Syria stance to a wary Congress – and the public. And House Speaker John Boehner and House majority leader Eric Cantor both announced Tuesday their endorsement of a congressional resolution authorizing action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
"I am going to support the president's call for action,” Speaker Boehner told reporters after a White House meeting between the president and several congressional leaders. "I believe my colleagues should support this call for action."
The top-level GOP congressional announcements are coming with lightning speed following the president’s weekend Rose Garden declaration that he would seek lawmakers’ support before making any moves. Boehner had demanded as much, as had a large swath of officials on both sides of the aisle.
Congress reconvenes Sept. 9, and Obama said Tuesday that he expects prompt debate and a vote at that time. He thanked Congress for “the soberness and seriousness” with which its members are weighing the issue.
“I've made a decision that America should take action, but I also believe that we will be much more effective, we will be stronger, if we take action together as one nation,” Obama said.
Senator McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina met with Obama over the holiday weekend to talk through the president’s plans to strike Syria in retaliation for an apparent chemical weapons attack Aug. 21 that killed more than 1,400 of that country’s citizens. The two lawmakers will probably be crucial in persuading their colleagues that they should get on board.
For a White House not known for being particularly nimble at lobbying lawmakers to the president’s side, it is both wise and probably also necessary to have key GOP officials helping to make the administration’s case for action – behind the scenes and on the airwaves. Especially as Obama leaves the country this week for the Group of 20 summit in Russia.
While the senators said they were encouraged by their conversation with Obama, McCain cautioned Tuesday morning on NBC’s “Today” that he can endorse the White House only if Obama’s plans “reverse the situation on the battlefield.” Any congressional authorization, McCain said, must sanction a proposal that makes strides toward changing Syria’s balance of power and gives the rebels on the ground a chance to topple Mr. Assad.
For his part, Senator Graham told The New York Times: “It is all in the details, but I left the meeting feeling better than I felt before about what happens the day after and that the purpose of the attack is going to be a little more robust than I thought.”