Emerging from a meeting at the White House with Obama and a group of lawmakers, Boehner, R-Ohio, said he plans to back Obama's plan for “limited” strikes aimed at degrading Syrian leader Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons but not forcing regime change.
“I am going to support the president's call for action,” he told reporters. “I believe my colleagues should support this call for action.”
“The use of force has to be responded to,” he added.
Boehner's deputy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., announced after the meeting that he too would support the use of force.
Even though Boehner's backing is a good sign for Obama, it by no means guarantees majority Republican support for the president's plans for military action.
Following up on Boehner's remarks, his spokesman Brendan Buck later Tuesday said his boss supports Obama's “call to action” but stressed that it's the president's responsibility to make his case to the American people and their elected representatives.
“Everyone understands that it is an uphill battle to pass a resolution, and the Speaker expects the White House to provide answers to members’ questions and take the lead on any whipping effort,” he said. “All votes authorizing the use of military force are conscience votes for members, and passage will require direct, continuous engagement from the White House.”
In both the House and Senate, Republicans are divided between those wanting to punish Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons and a rising isolationist wing of the party who are war-weary and say there is no national interest in striking Syria.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has already indicated her willingness to vote in favor of the resolution authorizing the use of force. After the meeting, she reiterated that position but also called on Obama to produce more proof that Assad is linked to the chemical weapon attack to help convince wary lawmakers who are still on the fence.
“I believe the American people need to hear more about the intelligence that supports this action,” she said.