Pretty much what I predicted is unfolding in Congress. The growing consensus among both conservatives and liberals that attacking Syria is a bad idea should be celebrated as an instance of bi-partisanship, of once polarized factions coming together over foreign policy, a sign of national unity. Too bad the President and the Democratic and Republican leadership aren’t part of it.
If the House voted today on a resolution to attack Syria, President Barack Obama would lose — and lose big.
That’s the private assessment of House Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides who are closely involved in the process.
If the Senate passes a use-of-force resolution next week — which is no sure thing — the current dynamics suggest that the House would defeat it. That would represent a dramatic failure for Obama, and once again prove that his sway over Congress is extraordinarily limited. The loss would have serious reverberations throughout the next three months, when Obama faces off against Congress in a series of high-stakes fiscal battles.
Several Republican leadership aides, who are counting votes but not encouraging a position, say that there are roughly one to two dozen “yes” votes in favor of military action at this time. The stunningly low number is expected to grow a bit.
But senior aides say they expect, at most, between 50 and 60 Republicans to vote with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who support the president’s plan to bomb Syria to stop Bashar Assad from using chemical weapons on his people. That would amount to less than one-third of the House Republican Conference.
That would mean the vast majority of the 200 House Democrats will need to vote with Obama for the resolution to pass. But Democrats privately say that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) can only round up between 115 and 130 “yes” votes.