Republican House speaker backs Obama's call for Syria strike
John Boehner urges colleagues to follow suit; Eric Cantor also voices support; Obama says he is confident Congress will vote for Syria strike; Hollande says France waiting for Congress vote, won't act alone.
John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said he would support U.S. President Barack Obama's call for military action in Syria and urged his colleagues in Congress to do the same.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Obama at the White House, Boehner said the United States had to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria and show allies that America would stand up when necessary.
U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor also said Tuesday that he will support Obama's request for military action in Syria.
"I intend to vote to provide the president of the United States the option to use military force in Syria," Cantor, a Republican, said in a statement issued shortly after the top Republican in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner, declared his support.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, said she believes Congress will support a resolution authorizing the use of U.S. military force against Syria.
Obama said on Tuesday he was confident that Congress would vote in favor of U.S. military action in Syria and said the United States had a broader plan to help rebels defeat Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.
During a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, Obama called for a prompt vote on Capitol Hill and reiterated that the U.S. plan would be limited in scope and not repeat the long U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional. It will degrade Assad's capabilities," Obama said.
"At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition," he said.
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Obama said he was willing to address concerns among lawmakers about the authorization for force that the White House sent to Congress.
"I look forward to listening to the various concerns of the members who are here today. I am confident that those concerns can be addressed," he said.
"I would not be going to Congress if I wasn't serious about consultations and believing that by shaping the authorization to make sure we accomplish the mission, we will be more effective."
Boehner, Pelosi, and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell were present at the meeting along with the chairs of congressional committees that deal with national security and the armed services.
Asked whether he was confident Congress would vote in favor of a strike, Obama said: "I am."
Obama reiterated his "high confidence" that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people. The president said that posed a serious national security threat to the United States and to the region.
Repeating the argument that administration officials have made central in their sales pitch to Congress, Obama said not holding Assad accountable would send the message to U.S. adversaries that international norms around issues like nuclear proliferation had little meaning.
"We are going to be asking for hearings and a prompt vote," he said. "I'm very appreciative that everybody here has already begun to schedule hearings and intends to take a vote as soon as all of Congress comes back early next week."
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande said he's waiting for a decision from the U.S. Congress on possible military action in Syria and insists France won't strike against Bashar Assad's regime alone.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday alongside Germany's president, Hollande said the U.S. vote sought by Obama about authorizing military action in Syria "will have consequences on the coalition that we will have to create."
Hollande added that if the Congress votes no, France "will take up its responsibilities by supporting the democratic opposition (in Syria) in such a way that a response is provided."