"A decision to provide lethal assistance, especially ammunition and heavy weapons, to opposition forces in Syria is long overdue, and we hope the president will take this urgently needed step," they said, also stressing the importance of a no-fly zone.
This sentiment was echoed by Rep. Elliot Engel, D-N.Y, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"In using chemical weapons, Assad has committed a war crime against his own people. What more does the civilized world need in order to come to the aid of the Syrian people who want to rid themselves of this monster?" he said in a written statement. "The president's 'red line' has clearly been crossed, and it is crystal clear that the United States must provide appropriate arms to those in Syria fighting for their lives and freedom. Further delay is not an option."
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has reversed a recommendation he made last year supporting arming the rebels, citing reports that al-Qaida splinter groups such as the Al Nusrah Fron now operate among the opposition fighters.
The White House estimates deaths from chemical weapons are between 100 and 150. Thursday's announcement follows reports from the U.N. earlier in the week that the overall death toll in Syria now exceeds 90,000.