House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said on Tuesday she believes Congress will support a resolution authorizing the use of U.S. military force against Syria:
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D., Calif.): Still morning? It’s still morning. Good morning. Good morning. The president honored us with his presentation this morning, that he does not take going into a military action lightly, that there are compelling reasons. The evidence — the intelligence is clear that Assad perpetrated this attack of — using weapons of mass destruction, really.
Weapons of mass destruction, deterring their use, is a pillar of our national security. Assad has done that. That is a differentiation from what he has done up until now. People say, well, he killed 100,000 people. What’s the difference with this 1,400? But this 1,400 he crossed a line with using chemical weapons.
President Obama did not draw the red line. Humanity drew it decades ago, 170-some countries supporting the convention on not using chemicals — chemical warfare. So it is really something that, from a humanitarian standpoint, cannot be ignored, or else we cannot say never again. Secondly, from a national security standpoint, 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.
It was a very constructive meeting. The president listened to our colleagues. The speaker was very clear, and I’m sure he has told you his view. I associated myself with his remarks.
But again, I believe that the American people need to hear more about the intelligence that supports this action, and that is that the responsibility for this chemical weapons use is clearly at the seat of Assad.
The — now we go to the next step of having further debate in the Congress of the United States. And I am hopeful that the American people are persuaded that this action happened, that Assad did it, that hundreds of children were killed. This is behavior outside the circle of civilized human behavior, and we must respond.
Q: Madam Leader, are you ready, then, to, in a sense, with your membership get on board with the president? Because we’ve been hearing obviously from the House especially — (off mic)?
REP. PELOSI: Well, yes. And I’m respectful of that. I — we do not — on these kinds of issues, it’s not a question of listening, it’s a question of discussing to make sure that people that 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.
And then members have to decide: Are they — do they want to ignore the facts that this humanitarian disaster took place, or not? And then there’s the larger issue of Syria’s behavior if they get away with it. So, again, it’s very respectful of all of the concerns that the members have, that our constituents have. I do not — in my district, I don’t think people are convinced that military action is necessary, but it’s important for them to know that the weapons of mass destruction’s use has taken us to a different place, that the president takes — obviously, any president would — but this president does not take this lightly, and that what will happen will be targeted, tailored, of short duration, and will send the message that is necessary, and then we go from there.
So you’re absolutely right; there’s work to be done. But it’s not a question of whipping; it’s a question of discussing with our members, hearing their views. And some won’t ever be comfortable with it. I myself, from a humanitarian standpoint, think that waiting for the U.N. and waiting for Putin, the slowest ship in the convoy of reacting to use of weapons — the chemical weapons by Assad, is a luxury that we cannot afford.
I have to go. Thank you all very much.
Q: (Off mic) — compare it to the Holocaust?
REP. PELOSI: No, no, I was thinking more of the Rwanda and — like that. Nothing is like the Holocaust.
Q: Can the president — (off mic) — Congress rejects?
REP. PELOSI: I don’t think Congress will reject. But I do want to remind you, because — I’ve been reading some of what some of you have written and say that a president has never gone forward if Congress has not approved when it has taken up the issue: I’ll remind you that in 1999, President Clinton brought us all together, similar to this meeting here, but over a period of time, to talk about going into the Balkans. And the vote was 213 to 213; 187 Republicans voted no; 180 Democrats voted yes; about 30 on each side, something like that, went in a different way than the majority of their party. And that was when the planes were really ready to go into Bosnia. He went, and you know what happened there.
So I don’t — I don’t think that the congressional authorization is necessary.
I do think it’s a good thing, and I hope that we can achieve it. I feel pretty confident, on the evidence, the intelligence, the national interest that is at stake, that we have a good conversation to have with our members.
I myself — I’ll tell you this story, and then I really do have to go. My 5-year-old grandson, as I was leaving San Francisco yesterday, he said to me, Mee-Mee (ph) — my name — Mee-Mee (ph), war with Syria, are you yes, war with Syria, no, war with Syria? Now, he’s 5 years old, and war — he’s saying war. I mean, we’re not talking about war; we’re talking about an action. Yes, war with Syria; no, war with Syria?
I said, well, what do you think? He said, I think no war. I said, well, I generally agree with that, but, you know, they’ve killed hundreds of children there. They’ve killed hundreds of children.
And he said — 5 years old — were these children in the United States? And I said, well, no, but they’re children, wherever they are.
So I don’t know what news he’s listening to or where — who he’s listening to, but even a 5-year-old child has to — you know, with the wisdom of our interests, how does it affect our interests? Well, it affects our interests because it was, again, outside the circle of civilized behavior, where humanity drew a line decades ago that I think if we ignore, we do so to the peril of many other people who could suffer.
So in any event, I just go back to the point, in the Balkans, Congress — 213/213 — failed for lack of a majority, but President Clinton went in.
Q: (Off mic.)
REP. PELOSI: I think that’s a subject of discussion. There are some people want it broader, and some people want it more narrow. I think that’s an open discussion.
Q: (Off mic.)
REP. PELOSI: Well, I want to hear what my members have to say.