By Justin Sink - 09/03/13 05:07 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that he would support President Obama's call for a military strike against Syria.
"I'm going to support the president's call for action," Boehner said, adding of chemical weapons use in Syria, that "this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated."
But a spokesman for Boehner said it would be Obama's responsibility to win votes for the authorization.
"It is the president’s responsibility to make his case to the American people and their elected representatives," spokesman Michael Steel said.
"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," Steel said in a statement. "All votes authorizing the use of military force are conscience votes for members, and passage will require direct, continuous engagement from the White House.”
Liberals and conservatives alike have raised objections to military action in Syria. More House members appear to oppose a strike than to support one, according to The Hill's whip list.
Cantor said authorizing language for a strike will likely change, but that the U.S. had a compelling national security interest to act, given the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons.
"I intend to vote to provide the president of the United States the option to use military force in Syria," Cantor said.
"America has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially by a terrorist state such as Syria, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest to the United States," he said.
Two other senior House Republicans, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), were noncommittal on military strikes in Syria and notably did not join Boehner and Cantor in backing congressional authorization.
McCarthy spokesman Mike Long called the meeting at the White House “productive and informative,” and he said McCarthy was weighing “the information and intelligence presented to him by the president and his national security team.”
“The president must continue to make the case for military action to the American people and the Congress,” Long said. “Absent a clear sense of what we must do, and what the mission is, it is difficult to formulate an appropriate and effective resolution authorizing the president to use military force against the Assad regime.”
Ryan, the House GOP budget chief and the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, did not attend the White House meeting, which was limited to the top lawmakers on national security committees.
"The president has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria,” Ryan said in a statement. “He needs to clearly demonstrate that the use of military force would strengthen America's security. I want to hear his case to Congress and to the American people.”
The statements from Boehner and Cantor came shortly after a meeting at the White House between Obama and congressional leaders.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated her support for a strike Tuesday after the White House meeting.
— This story was posted at 11:35 a.m. and updated at 1:07 p.m. and 2:22 p.m.