King: White House asks GOP members for ways 'to move the needle' on Syria

A group of House Republicans who support military strikes in Syria met with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on Monday to plot out strategy to gain support for military action with the public and lawmakers.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) told The Hill that the White House meeting with McDonough was held so the administration could solicit ideas to try and turn the tide of mounting “no” votes.

“I think his main thing was this is not going to be a traditional operation to line up votes,” King said, calling the meeting “constructive."

“It was more about asking us for ideas as to what the president can say or what the White House can do to try to win support — both public support and congressional support — to try to move the needle,” he said.

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Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) also attended the meeting with McDonough, King said.

The five GOP lawmakers are part of a small group of House Republicans who have come out in favor of taking military action, while more than 100 of their GOP colleagues have expressed opposition to strikes.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have both publicly backed military action in Syria, but they said they are not planning to whip votes in their conference.

The meeting with Republican lawmakers Monday is part of a major push by the White House to convince the public and lawmakers that limited military action in Syria is the right course of action.

Behind the scenes, McDonough will be meeting with the House Democrats on Tuesday, and President Obama is attending the Senate Democrats' caucus lunch the same day. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said an invitation has also been extended to Senate Republicans.

King said that in order to win a vote authorizing force, Obama must convince the public to back a strike, something the president will seek to do with a White House address on Tuesday evening.

King predicted that if a House vote were held now, it would fail.

“Right now, people are just against it,” King said.

“It’s really going to involve the president and the White House moving national opinion and making the case, and that will make our job easier as far as talking to people,” he said.

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