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Obama Will Consult Congress on Syria

Updated 1:43 p.m. | President Barack Obama will consult Congress on Syria, according to a White House official — something Speaker John A. Boehner has sought before any military action is taken.

“We will be consulting appropriately with the Congress,” the official said in response to a question from CQ Roll Call about the president’s meeting this morning with his advisers to discuss options in response to reports of a possible massacre via chemical weapons in Syria.

“Once we ascertain the facts, the President will make an informed decision about how to respond,” a White House official said. “We have a range of options available, and we are going to act very deliberately so that we’re making decisions consistent with our  national interest as well as our assessment of what can advance our objectives in Syria.”

Boehner has previously called for the president to have “robust” consultation with Congress before military action in Syria, although he has nixed bipartisan efforts to vote to block military intervention.

In July, he publicly endorsed the administration’s decision to provide military aid to rebels. And in June he spoke against allowing a vote on Syria military intervention.

“I don’t know that we’re ready for that conversation, because the president’s not suggested any specific steps forward at this point, and — and so there really is nothing yet to vote on,” Boehner said June 27.

The president had met with Boehner and other top congressional leaders at the White House two days earlier for over an hour to discuss foreign policy.

Reps. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y. and Peter Welch, D-Vt., had led an effort to force a vote on prohibiting military intervention in Syria, including aid to rebels, without congressional authorization.

Boehner blocked a vote on their measure in July via the Rules Committee, which refused to allow their amendment to the Defense spending bill.

A companion effort in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., has three co-sponsors: Mike Lee, R-Utah, Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., and Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said the president cannot launch an attack on Syria without Congressional approval.

“Congress hasn’t authorized war against Syria. Unless Pres Obama expects imminent attack on U.S., use of force is unconstitutional & illegal,” he tweeted Friday night.

But Syria hawks have said the president has the authority to act short of putting boots on the ground in Syria — something no one has advocated and the president has ruled out — without a vote of Congress.

And there is ample precedent in recent decades, including President Bill Clinton’s air war in Kosovo, and Obama’s strikes in Libya, of presidents acting without Congressional authorization.

With Congress at home this month, don’t expect that pattern to change if Obama decides to attack Syria.

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