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How the Votes are Shaping Up on Syria

Division within each party as the authorization of force heads for a vote next week.

by
Bill Straub

Bio

September 4, 2013 - 5:31 pm

WASHINGTON – The fate of President Obama’s appeal to Congress to undertake a military strike against the government of Syria for employing chemical weapons against rebel forces remains as murky as the Barada River, but there exists a growing feeling that the White House has a lot of ground to make up.

A rough survey of congressional offices by CNN established that most lawmakers remain undecided on the president’s entreaty at this late stage. More than half of the Senate – 70 members, according to CNN – remain uncommitted. The same is true in the House, where 338 of the 435 representatives have yet to make their feelings known.

Otherwise, as predicted, it appears the president will have an easier slog through the Democrat-controlled Senate than the Republican-controlled lower chamber. Of those lawmakers on the record, supporters outstrip opponents 20-10 in the Senate, while foes maintain a 69-25 edge in the House.

“It’s a cliché, but true — there are no easy answers,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Syria and much of the Middle East are a mess.”

There was a sense earlier in the week that the Obama request – despite polls showing six out of 10 Americans opposing unilateral intervention in Syria – was gaining congressional momentum. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), all emerged from White House sessions to declare their support, providing military action with a patina of bipartisanship.

That same feeling could be experienced in the Senate, where Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has been uncharacteristically quiet on the issue. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two foreign policy hawks, leant their support. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the panel’s ranking member, worked together to craft a use-of-force resolution.

That passed the committee 10-7-1 on Wednesday and is headed for the full Senate.

But some of that upper chamber coalition may be dropping off. McCain expressed opposition to the Menendez-Corker resolution, asserting that its provisions – limiting the scope and duration of congressional authorization to 90 days, prohibiting the introduction of ground troops and requiring the White House to issue a report to Congress explaining its strategy for achieving a political settlement in Syrian – were too restrictive. He ultimately voted in favor of the measure.

Ultimately, according to Senate observers, several Democrats are expected to alienate themselves from the White House position and oppose any military resolution against the government of Bashar al-Assad, but there are expected to be sufficient GOP votes to compensate for any shortfall.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) is considered one of those disaffected Democrats. He has been a vocal opponent of sending heavy weapons to the Syrian rebels and further embroiling the United States in the Syrian civil war.

“We’re being told we’re bombing in order to send a message but what message are we sending?” Udall asked during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on Tuesday. “To the international community, we’re saying once again, the United States will be the world’s policeman. You break a law, and the United States will step in. We are on shaky international legal foundations with this potential strike and we need to know whether we exhausted all diplomatic and economic sanction options to affect Syria’s behavior.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has proven to be the most vocal intervention foe, asserting that while he condemns the introduction of chemical weapons into the Syrian conflict there exists “no clear national security connection to the United States and victory by either side will not necessarily bring in to power people friendly to the United States.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) added that “America cannot afford another conflict that taxes our resources without achieving goals that advance American interests and I will not support authorizing military action against Syria at this time.” 

Intervention supporters also are stepping up. Reid called the use of military force against Syria “justified and necessary.”

“I believe the United States has a moral obligation as well as a national security interest in defending innocent lives against such atrocities and in enforcing international norms such as the prohibition against the use of chemical weapons,” he said. “Assad must be held accountable for his heinous acts and the world looks to us for leadership.”

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) characterized Assad’s actions as “shocking and deplorable.”

“Without putting American troops on the ground, the atrocities in Syria require a strong response that will prevent them from happening again and ensure that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile does not fall into the hands of terrorists and further destabilize the Middle East,” she said.

The message is a little more mixed on the House side. Boehner, who regularly tangles with the president on any number of lesser issues, said in supporting the White House position, “the use of these weapons has to be responded to, and only the U.S. has the capability.”

Cantor was more emphatic, maintaining that the U.S. “has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially by a terrorist state such as Syria, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest.”

“Bashar Assad’s Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism, is the epitome of a rogue state, and it has long posed a direct threat to American interests and to our partners,” he said. “The ongoing civil war in Syria has enlarged this threat.”

Blue Dog Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) said he opposes U.S. involvement “without strong international support.”

“The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime is reprehensible but without attainable objectives tied to a clear strategy, direct military intervention by the U.S. is a mistake that will lead to numerous unforeseen consequences,” Schrader said. “We should continue to work with our international partners to end the violence in Syria through other means. Our nation has much bigger economic security issues at home that more greatly threaten our nation.”

Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), another foe, explained, “Frankly, I don’t think we need to get involved in another war in the Middle East.”

“After a decade of American involvement in the Middle East, I believe a majority of Northern Michigan’s citizens have grown tired of war and are weary of getting involved in another nation’s civil war,” he said.

Washington freelancer Bill Straub is former White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Any "American" that is in favor of sending the US military to Syria to fight on behalf of Al Queda should be stripped of their citizenship and forcibly deported to the war zone.

And anyone that thinks this clown of a President can be trusted with the authority to wage war should be stripped of their voting rights.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
"We’re being told we’re bombing in order to send a message ..." Udall.

A message to Iran that we won't attack you, because we're afraid or we already would have, but we'll sure blow the bits out of your allies like Syria,
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two foreign policy hawks, leant their support."

They are not foreign policy hawks. I wish people would stop calling them that. They are foreign policy loons.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
my roomate's mom makes $76 hourly on the internet. She has been without a job for eight months but last month her check was $19929 just working on the internet for a few hours. websites..... www.cnn13.com
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
my Aunty Kendall recently got an awesome 9 month old Lincoln MKT Wagon by working off of a laptop. straight from the source
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31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't let anybody be fooled by this Corker/Menendez resolution. The congress has no power to direct the acts of war after making a declaration. That power is given to the Commander in Chief. They are setting up a ruse to fool people.

Then there's the story about who is backing whom: http://oilprice.com/Geopolitics/Africa/Saudi-Prince-Bandar-in-Egypt.html
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Our standing policy on chemical weapons has been if you gas us we will nuke you. Before we expose our troops on a battlefield where we know nerve gas has been used, shouldn't the president confirm what our response would be if Assad or the rebels attack us with these weapons?

If I were a member of Congress, I would want the issue clarified before I vote to support use of force.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Strategically? Hmmm. Gosh, that might mean judging us by what we do and not by what we say. What a concept.

What are the strategic drivers here?

1. Oil supply and price. Fracking technology is going to make the good old USA a net producer. These arab states are potentially beggars in the wilderness. Who is trying to make that happen and who is trying to prevent it? Why are they really doing it?

2. With no oil money, no vast military with nuclear weapons. Same questions.

3. Our fearless leader has been helping Libya, a lot. Now their economy is a basket case, and they don't have a government to speak of. The place is the new Somalia. Why did we intervene the way we did? Did we intend the actual consequence: Destruction of the Libyan economy and government? If so, smart move? If not, what did the Administration actually intend?

4. There are two basic drivers: Economics and Ideology. Which is important here and why? Why does the Administration behave the way it does?

The proof is left as an exercise for the reader.

32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
As long as China, Japan, and western Europe have modern energy intensive economies and no domestic petroleum deposits the oil fields in the Middle East will remain strategic.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Graveswr, the US may become a net producer of oil in the future, but we're not there yet. The combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has allowed the US to get large quantities of natural gas out of shale. Revolutionary because it allows us to get natural gas out of the large areas of source rock instead of the small concentrated pockets where it leaked out and collected. The corresponding technology to get large quantities of oil locked up in shale doesn't exist yet. Instead, we have the technology and high oil prices to get at smaller separated pockets of oil in the vicinity of the shale. If oil companies believed that the Bakken Shale in North Dakota was going to last, they'd be building pipelines there.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you want to send a message, there's always the US Postal Service.
Or email.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not email, the NSA will only read that.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
The lone "Strategic" benefit to doing this is to keep Obama from looking like an incompetent who continually shoots his mouth off, without considering the consequences of his proclamations.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Any "American" that is in favor of sending the US military to Syria to fight on behalf of Al Queda should be stripped of their citizenship and forcibly deported to the war zone.

And anyone that thinks this clown of a President can be trusted with the authority to wage war should be stripped of their voting rights.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's one of the drawbacks with the secret ballot. One can never be sure who's to blame for "this clown of a President."
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Readers:
We're watching individual Politicians in the Raw here, meaning that we're not likely to witness much selflessness patriotism, old fashioned style, that's so uncool now. So 1940's.

We're going to see some of their smooth, smilin' electioneering veneers peeled away, as results of their voting decisions become clear, as these guys have seriously weighed their wanting to remain on office, continuing with the heady perks of Capitol Hill, against the bloody brutal reality that arming Assad's enemy is the same as arming our own National enemy, as all factions in that nasty arena out there are, still and remain, practicing Muslims.

But seeing that clearly, and publicly stating it is so politically incorrect, and politically dangerous.

The old cliche, the enemy of my enemy -being Assad - as of today, is my [temporary] friend is far too simplistic for the Muslims in the Middle East.

Remember the Muslims who attacked our Embassy in Teheran waaaaay back in 1979?.......[our attention spans are down to nothing now]....remember the Muslims who bombed the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut?, remember the USS Cole,? try to remember the horrible thuds and thumps on the rooftops of the buildings neighboring the World Trade Center as our people jumped out of the upper storey windows rather than burn to death on 11 September, 2001?

Remember that that fiery butchery was caused by Muslims. Koran reading, practicing Muslims.

Now....how many Koran reading Muslims do we have keeping a very low profile now in our cities?...in the Mosques in our cities? their nice boys in their madrassas?

We need to pull our National Heads out of our National A$$es and face the need to quarantine and isolate Muslims here at home.....we have no idea what they're thinking.

I've never, ever, seen such steaming bulls**t bubbling in Washington D.C.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
"We’re being told we’re bombing in order to send a message ..." Udall.

A message to Iran that we won't attack you, because we're afraid or we already would have, but we'll sure blow the bits out of your allies like Syria,
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bombing to send a message? As if bombs will rain down dit-dah-dit in Morse code pattern.

Send a message via US Postal Service. Or by email. (The State Department is too unreliable; remember Hillary's reset button that was marked overcharge in Russian!)
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
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