While the Obama administration participates in congressional hearings and classified intelligence meetings with members of Congress to convince a majority to authorize the use of military force against Syria, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is taking a back seat on any effort to gather support from his Republican caucus.
After a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, Speaker Boehner announced his support for the president’s request to intervene in Syria. “The use of these weapons has to be responded to, and only the United States has the capability and the capacity to stop Assad and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated,” Boehner said. “I’m going to support the president’s call for action. I believe that my colleagues should support this call for action.”
But that’s as far as the Speaker’s support will go.
Boehner has made it clear that he believes it is the Obama administration’s responsibility to accrue votes in favor of a resolution that would approve a military strike against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons against his own people.
On Friday, Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel reiterated, “It is the president’s responsibility to make his case to the American people and their elected representatives.”
“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,” Steel added.
Additionally, despite Boehner’s and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) support for authorization, House majority whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) still remains undecided on the resolution.
Michael Long, a spokesperson for McCarthy said, “Whip McCarthy is weighing the information and intelligence presented to him by the president and his national security team. The president must continue to make the case for military action to the American people and the Congress—absent a clear sense of what we must do, and why, it is impossible to formulate an appropriate and effective military response.”
McCarthy is widely considered to be one of the Republican Party’s most effective vote collectors, making his support potentially critical for the White House.
This has been a tough sell for a Congress and public weary of engaging in any action that may lead to yet another drawn-out war. According to Think Progress, as of Friday morning 118 representatives — including 66 Republicans — oppose authorization. Only 26 are in favor, nine of whom are Republicans. A total of 173 representatives are undecided, the vast majority of whom are Democrats. And 131 of those Representatives — 98 of whom are Republicans — are leaning against voting for military action. Similar figures are available at Talking Points Memo, The Washington Post, and The Hill.
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