By Justin Sink and Mike Lillis - 09/03/13 03:48 PM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said the use of chemical weapons in Syria was "outside the circle of civilized behavior" and "cannot be ignored" by the United States.
"We must respond," Pelosi said.
"The American people need to hear more about the intelligence that supports this action, and that is that the responsibility for chemical weapons use is clearly at the feet of Assad," she said.
The Democratic leader also said the president has the authority to use military force in Syria even if Congress votes against an intervention. She noted that Congress voted down President Clinton's request for intervention in Kosovo in the late 1990s, but Clinton went in anyways — a move Pelosi suggested was the right one.
"I don't think that congressional authorization is necessary, but I think it's a good thing," Pelosi said.
She also made a careful distinction between whipping Democratic votes and promoting discussions to inform lawmakers about the situation on the ground. In doing so, she suggested that Democratic leaders won't twist the arms of their troops to support Obama's intervention request.
"On these kinds of issues, it's not a question of whipping, it's a question of discussion — to make sure that people have the information that they need to make an informed decision, to make sure that they have the full value of the intelligence that says this is how this happened," she said.
"And then members have to decide, are they willing … to ignore the fact that this humanitarian disaster took place or not?"
"Weapons of mass destruction, deterring their use, is a pillar of our national security strategy," she added.
She also reiterated that a strike would be "targeted, tailored, of short duration, and send the message that is necessary."
"We have to send a very clear message to those who have weapons of mass destruction of any variety that they should forget about using them," she said.
— This story was updated at 12:27 p.m.