House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced his support for President Obama’s plan for intervention in Syria, following a Tuesday meeting with the president at the White House. Boehner’s backing is a win for Obama as he tries to convince a reluctant Congress to approve a strike against Syria due to its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Obama faces tough opposition to his plan to attack Syria in Congress, where factions of both parties have expressed skepticism about the effort. In the House, in particular, Boehner has now taken sides in what will be a showdown within his own party between the foreign policy hawks and those who ascribe to a more libertarian, noninterventionist worldview.
“This is something that the United States as a country needs to do,” Boehner said after the meeting, which was attended by congressional leaders from both parties. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are also supporting a military strike, putting House leadership squarely on Obama’s side of the debate.
“I’m going to support the president’s call for action, and I believe my colleagues should support the president’s call for action,” Boehner said. “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 to be tolerated.”
Most recently in July, the two wings of the party clashed in a close vote to defund the National Security Agency’s program that collects phone call data on American citizens. The vote, which failed narrowly, pitted the more libertarian-leaning members against the more traditional, pro-intervention Republicans, and demonstrated the deep divide within the party. Syria will set up a similar test.
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Republicans in the Senate will also clash over Syria, where interventionist Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., of the isolationist mold, have clashed over issues like drones and now disagree on Syria.
Obama, who met with both Republican and Democratic leaders on Tuesday before departing for a three-day trip to Sweden and Russia, has an uphill battle to win over a bipartisan coalition in favor of a strike in Syria.
“Rand Paul is actually in sync with a crisis-weary America and a fatigued G.O.P.,” Republican strategist Alex Castellanos told the New York Times. At the same time, House Republican aides told the Times that there is scant support in conservative districts for involvement in the Syria quagmire.
During Tuesday’s meeting, according to Politico, Obama expressed confidence that Congress would approve military action against Syria when the August recess ends and they return to Washington next week.