Top Obama Administration officials spent 90 minutes on a conference call with over two dozen members of Congress on Thursday night, making the case that the Syrian government was linked to the chemical weapons attack last week in that Mideast nation. Lawmakers said they were told that no decision has been made on whether the U.S. should strike targets in Syria.
“I would support surgical, proportional military strikes given the strong evidence of the Assad regime’s continued use of chemical warfare,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) in a statement issued after the call.
Corker though said even more Congressional consultation is needed, as many Republicans have demanded a vote in Congress first on any military action.
“We must be clear that the United States rejects the use of chemical weapons by Assad or any other regime,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who stressed in a statement that she agreed with Speaker John Boehner that more consultation with the Congress is still needed.
“On this evening’s call, I expressed my appreciation for the measured, targeted and limited approach the President may be considering,” Pelosi added.
Here is the readout issued by the White House to reporters:
Readout of Briefing for Congressional Leaders on the Assad Regime’s Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria
Following on the President’s calls with House and Senate leaders over the last day, and building on extensive Cabinet Member outreach to Congress over the past week, this evening Senior Administration Officials held an unclassified phone call with congressional leaders and the Chairs and Ranking Members of national security committees to brief them on the Administration’s thinking and seek their input on the U.S. response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons near Damascus on August 21. The views of Congress are important to the President’s decision-making process, and we will continue to engage with Members as the President reaches a decision on the appropriate U.S. response to the Syrian government’s violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons. Senior Administration Officials participating in tonight’s call included National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sandy Winnefeld. The call lasted 90 minutes and 15 Members asked questions of the assembled Administration Officials.
Members of Congress participating in the briefing included:
- Speaker John Boehner, R-OH
- Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA
- Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, Assistant Majority Leader and Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense
- Senator John Cornyn, R-TX, Republican Whip
- Representative Eric Cantor, R-VA, Majority Leader
- Representative Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, Majority Whip
- Representative Steny Hoyer, D-MD, Democratic Whip
- Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, Democratic Conference Committee Vice Chair
- Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, Chair, Appropriations Committee
- Senator Carl Levin, D-MI, Chairman, Armed Services Committee
- Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ, Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee
- Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, Chair, Select Committee on Intelligence
- Senator James Inhofe, R-OK, Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee
- Senator Bob Corker, R-TN, Ranking Member, Foreign Relations Committee
- Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, Ranking Member, Select Committee on Intelligence
- Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
- Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
- Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS, Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense
- Representative Bill Young, R-FL, Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense
- Representative Ed Royce, R-CA, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee
- Representative Mike Rogers, R-MI, Chairman, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
- Representative Nita Lowey, D-NY, Ranking Member Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
- Representative Buck McKeon, R-CA, Chairman, Armed Services Committee
- Representative Eliot Engel, D-NY, Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Committee
- Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, D-MD, Ranking Member, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
- Representative Kay Granger, R-TX, Chair, Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs