WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's call for a military strike in Syria won significant momentum Tuesday, with leaders of both parties in Congress announcing they are convinced that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own people and that the United States should respond.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner emerged from a White House meeting and told reporters: "This is something that the United States, as a country, needs to do. I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe that my colleagues should support this call for action."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also said they will support Obama because the U.S. has a compelling national security interest to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.
But their endorsements still don't resolve the deep ambivalence and even opposition toward action in both parties, and Boehner's spokesman followed up the speaker's announcement by describing the resolution's passage as "an uphill battle." Dozens of conservative Republicans and several liberal Democrats have come out against intervention, and may be prepared to ignore the positions of their leaders and the president.
Pelosi stressed that Americans need to hear more of the intelligence to be convinced that a strike is necessary. "I'm hopeful that the American people are persuaded," she said.
"This is behavior outside the circle of civilized human behavior and we must respond," she argued as she left the West Wing.
Obama met with more than a dozen lawmakers in the White House Cabinet Room to press the case for strikes aimed at dismantling Assad's chemical weapons capabilities. The president said he's confident Congress will authorize the strike and tried to assure the public that involvement in Syria will be a "limited, proportional step."