Boehner seeks answers from Obama on Syria

5:09 PM, Aug 28, 2013   |    comments
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to President Obama seeking more information on Syria. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)
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WASHINGTON--House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to President Obama seeking answers to 14 questions regarding U.S. military intervention in Syria, but the speaker stopped short of seeking a formal authorization vote before the president can engage.

Rather, Boehner contends that the president needs to consult with Congress but make the case to the American people to justify engaging in Syria's civil war. Noting that Obama's self-described "red line" against Syria's use of chemical weapons has been crossed, Boehner writes that Obama should "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."

Among the questions Boehner asks: How the administration determined that the scope of chemical weapons use warrants military action; what the purpose of a strike would be; what it would intend to achieve; if further strikes will be conducted if initial efforts don't change the reality on the ground; and whether the administration may seek more money from Congress to conduct such operations.

So far, Boehner said, the administration's outreach has been insufficient to mollify lawmakers' concerns. "I have conferred with the chairmen of the national security committees who have received initial outreach from senior Administration officials, and while the outreach has been appreciated, it is apparent from the questions above that the outreach has, to date, not reached the level of substantive consultation," he wrote.

Boehner's letter comes the same day as at least 111 House lawmakers signed a letter by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., calling on Obama to seek a vote of congressional approval before any military action can be taken. The lawmakers contend that to act without their authority violates the Constitution, but the administration contends they are not legally required to seek authorization in order to act in the immediate national security interest.

Whether the Syria situation meets that standard is a matter of debate in Washington, but Boehner's letter also indicated support for the administration's view that it has the constitutional authority for limited military engagement in Syria.

"I am mindful that Syria is one of the few places where the immediate national security interests of the United States so visibly converge with broader U.S. security interests and objectives," he wrote.

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