House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, declined a meeting with a Russian delegation hoping to discuss possible U.S. military involvement in Syria, an aide to the speaker said Wednesday.
"The speaker has declined the Russian embassy's request that he meet with a delegation," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel confirmed to NBC News.
The Russian delegation had likely sought to persuade Boehner and other members of Congress against military action in Syria, and the speaker's move to rebuff them represents a blow to that effort.
The Republican speaker, who doesn't often side with President Barack Obama on major issues, on Monday emphatically backed the president's request for authority to launch an attack against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Top Russian lawmakers on Monday lobbied President Vladimir Putin to dispatch the delegation, citing polls showing little popularity for armed intervention among the American people, the Associated Press reported.
It is unclear who is in the delegation and what other members of Congress they may try to meet with.
Russia has been a top ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, and top Russian officials have dismissed evidence that suggests Assad used chemical weapons against civilians. The U.S. has accused Russia of providing arms to Assad's regime during the civil war.
On Saturday, Putin called American intervention in Syria "foolish nonsense" that "defies all logic."
Obama will coincidentally travel to Russia on Thursday, though he won't meet with Putin; the American president previously canceled a bilateral meeting with his Russian part after Putin's government gave suspected NSA leaker Edward Snowden safe haven in Russia.
First published September 4 2013, 6:21 PM