Boehner Confirms Obama Has Yet to Brief Congress on Syria Plans (Updated)

A convoy of United Nations vehicles leave a hotel in Damascus, Syria, Monday carrying inspectors travelling to the site of an alleged chemical-weapon attack the previous week in Ghouta, east of the capital. The Syrian authorities approved the U.N. inspection of the site, but U.S. officials said it was too little, too late, arguing that persistent shelling there in recent days had "corrupted" the site. (AFP PHOTO / STR)

Update 3: 3:07 p.m. Tuesday — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., report they have been briefed by the White House about the situation in Syria and military options under consideration.

Update 2: 3:47 p.m. Monday — John Noonan, a spokesman for the GOP-controlled House Armed Services Committee tweeted this after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeated Kerry’s comment about congressional consultations being underway: “@PressSec says White House is “consulting Congress” on Syria. That’s news to us.”

Update 1: 3:39 p.m. Monday — Secretary of State John Kerry said during afternoon remarks that the White House has begun notifying members of Congress of its Syria deliberations.

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The 3 a.m. phone call was made famous — infamous? — by the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination fight. But, right now, a major indicator of what President Barack Obama will do about Syria is a conference call he might make very soon.

Obama reportedly is weighing military options after Syrian forces allegedly used chemical weapons on opposition forces and civilians, crossing Obama’s “red line.” Again. (A United Nations inspection team on the ground in Syria to examine reports of chemical weapons use were reportedly shot at on Monday. It’s unclear what color, for Obama, is the line for trying to kill — or scare away — noncombatant U.N. employees.)

Before the commander in chief can act, however, Obama will have to — out of courtesy, if not necessity — contact congressional leaders and the heads of the Capitol Hill’s defense and national security committees.

On Friday evening, after the Pentagon confirmed a U.S. Navy carrier strike group had been moved closer to Syria, your correspondent began pinging key congressional aides. None reported their boss had been briefed by the White House.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, confirmed in a Monday statement that the Obama administration still has yet to contact senior lawmakers about what it plans to do.

“If he chooses to act, the president must explain his decision publicly, clearly, and resolutely,” Boehner said. “The president is commander-in-chief. With that power comes obligations.

“One, of course, is to consult with Congress on the options he sees as a viable response. This consultation has not yet taken place, but it is an essential part of the process,” the speaker said.

Before Obama takes American forces to war, Boehner said, “meaningful consultation [with Congress] should happen before any military action is taken.”

Most other lawmakers, even the most ardent supporters of a Syria mission, agree. And because Obama needs Congress to pass several bills key to his second-term agenda and legacy, it would be unwise for him to anger Capitol Hill by going to war without at least appearing to care about their thoughts on the matter.

Editor’s Note: Secretary of State John Kerry will make a statement at 2:30 p.m. on Syria, followed by a White House daily briefing at 3 p.m. Check DefenseNews.com for complete coverage. Senior Congressional Correspondent John T. Bennett will live-tweet both briefings.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett
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