The White House’s release of an intelligence assessment accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of killing at least 1,429 people — including at least 426 children — in a chemical weapons attack wasn’t enough to win the backing of Speaker John A. Boehner.
“As we have said, if the president believes this information makes a military response imperative, it is his responsibility to explain to Congress and the American people the objectives, strategy and legal basis for any potential action,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck. “We — and the American people — look forward to more answers from the White House.”
The White House has come under increasing pressure to come to Congress not just for consultation, but for votes, with an NBC News poll showing overwhelming support for requiring congressional authorization before an attack. But so far, House and Senate leaders have not moved to cut short their August break. (Congress is due back on Sept. 9.)
Obama made brief remarks at the White House Friday, reiterating that he was considering limited military action against Syria. He indicated he is leaning toward taking some military action, though it would likely be limited.
He noted that lots of people, himself included, are “war weary,” according to a pool report.
“There is a certain weariness, given Afghanistan. There is a certain suspicion of any military action post-Iraq. And I very much appreciate that. … It’s important for us to recognize that when over a thousand people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we’re sending a signal … that is a danger to our national security.”
As for Congress, the president said the administration will provide lawmakers all the information they need.
“We’re very mindful of that … but ultimately we don’t want the world to be paralyzed,” he said.
Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., who has led an effort seeking a congressional vote before any attack, said in a statement that he appreciated the consultation with Congress, including in a conference call scheduled for Friday afternoon. But he said that it was not enough.
“Though consulting with Congress is helpful, it is in no way an adequate substitute for President Obama obtaining statutory authority from Congress prior to the use of military force, as required by the Constitution,” he said.