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White House Reaches Out to Boehner Regarding Syria (Updated)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:02 p.m. | The White House reached out to Speaker John A. Boehner on Monday afternoon regarding the situation in Syria, the Ohio Republican’s office said.

“This afternoon, the Speaker had preliminary communication with the White House about the situation in Syria and any potential U.S. response. The Speaker made clear that before any action is taken there must be meaningful consultation with members of Congress, as well as clearly defined objectives and a broader strategy to achieve stability,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement.

The White House had previously announced that President Barack Obama called multiple foreign leaders over the weekend to discuss a response to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, but he apparently had not called Boehner.

“The president is the commander-in-chief, but the first step is for him and his team to consult with Congress on what he considers viable options. That has not yet taken place,” Buck said earlier. He declined to speculate on whether Congress could be called back for a vote authorizing military action.

A White House aide on Saturday said Congress would be consulted on Syria.

Because the House and Senate agreed to an adjournment resolution, any move to bring Congress back from August recess early would require joint action by Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Boehner has repeatedly called for the president to engage in a “robust” consultation with Congress before taking any military action in Syria, although he backed the president’s decision to provide military aid to the rebels.

Buck this afternoon wrote a longer statement titled, “Will Americans Hear from Their Commander-In-Chief?”:

The eyes of the world are on the United States this week. The Syrian regime has blatantly crossed President Obama’s red line, the White House has acknowledged, by using chemical weapons on its people. The president’s response stands to have significant impact on the outcome of the lengthy Syrian civil war. The options facing the president are complicated, have far-reaching ramifications, and may require significant resources.

That’s why, if he chooses to act, the president must explain his decision publicly, clearly, and resolutely.

The president is commander-in-chief. With that power comes obligations. One, of course, is to consult with Congress on the options he sees as a viable response. This consultation has not yet taken place, but it is an essential part of the process. And meaningful consultation should happen before any military action is taken.

More than just to Congress, the president has an obligation to the American people to explain the rationale for the course of action he chooses; why it’s critical to our national security; and what the broader strategy is to achieve stability.

Surveys have shown that the American public is hesitant to intervene in Syria. This is understandable, and it underscores the need for the president to fully explain what is at stake and outline why he believes action is necessary.

If U.S. action is imminent, it is our hope that the president doesn’t forget his obligations – to Congress, but, also, to speak directly to the American people.

Meanwhile, there has been a continued push by hawks such as Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for significant military action.

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