White House seeks to build support in Congress ahead of action in Syria

The White House reached out to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Monday as part of an effort to build congressional support ahead of what appears to be an imminent military strike against Syria.

Press secretary Jay Carney said administration officials, including those from the White House and State Department, were actively "consulting with Congress " as it weighs a response to the "repugnant" use of chemical weapons in Syria.

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And a spokesman for Boehner said Monday that officials from the White House had "preliminary communication” with the top Republican lawmaker about possible avenues.

"The Speaker made clear that before any action is taken, there must be meaningful consultation with members of Congress, as well as clearly defined objectives and a broader strategy to achieve stability,” Boehner aide Brendan Buck said.

The outreach comes as lawmakers have started demanding to be kept in the loop amid signs that U.S. strikes in Syria might be imminent. 

Congress wants to avoid a repeat of the air campaign to remove Moammar Gadhafi in Libya two years ago, which also began while lawmakers were in recess and left many feeling sidelined.

“War Powers Resolution is consistent w/Constitution: Pres can take unilateral action only pursuant to nat'l emergency,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) tweeted on Monday after Kerry's speech, which laid out a rationale for action against Assad. 

Likewise, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), urged the president to come to Congress.

“I don’t think there’s any question in our administration’s mind that chemical warfare has been used, and so ... I hope they come to Congress for an authorization at some point,” Corker told MSNBC Monday morning.

Earlier Monday, Buck complained that though the president was obligated to “consult with Congress on the options he sees as a viable response,” that the “consultation has not yet taken place.”

“More than just to Congress, the president has an obligation to the American people to explain the rationale for the course of action he chooses; why it’s critical to our national security; and what the broader strategy is to achieve stability,” Buck said.

That warning seemed to provoke a response from the White House; by Monday afternoon, Buck reported that staff in the Speaker's office had been contacted. Shortly thereafter, Boehner himself consulted with administration officials.

Likewise, the spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee tweeted Monday, “we haven't been consulted by White House or DoD.”

During his briefing, Carney became defensive when pressed on why some top-ranking Republicans had voiced frustration with not having yet heard from the White House.

“I'm not going to itemize calls or individuals ... there are 535 members. We could spend a lot of time with each individual,” Carney said. “I don't have specific conversations to read out to you, but I can assure you that process is underway and has been underway and will continue to be.”

This post was updated at 6:40 p.m.

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