Boehner to Obama: You must ‘personally’ explain Syria policy

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
Boehner to Obama: You must ‘personally’ explain Syria policy

Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday urged President Barack Obama to “personally” explain his Syria policy to Congress and the American people before ordering any military strikes against Bashar Assad’s forces.

“I respectfully request that you, as our country’s commander-in-chief, personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy,” Boehner said in a letter to Obama.

With a growing number of lawmakers either coming out against striking Syria or saying Obama must get Congress’ explicit permission to do so, Boehner said it was “essential” that the president detail “on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.”

But Boehner neither insisted that Obama must get lawmakers to vote on possible military action nor opposed the president’s approach. Instead, he broadly supported the emerging outlines of the White House approach.

He said the United States has “immediate national security interests” in Syria and that “America’s credibility” was bound up in addressing “the alarming scale of the human suffering” there.

Noting that Obama’s policies toward Syria include Assad’s ouster and securing the country’s chemical weapons, Boehner said, “I support these policies.”

But while there has been “outreach” to key lawmakers, it has “not reached the level of substantive consultation,” Boehner said.

“It is essential that you provide a clear, unambiguous explanation of how military action — which is a means, not a policy — will secure U.S. objectives and how it fits into your overall policy,” the speaker said.

Boehner's letter came as U.S. officials said the Obama administration would provide a classified briefing on Syria to leaders of both parties in both chambers as well as the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate committees that manage intelligence, armed forces and foreign relations.