That’s what Think Progress says as of 4:30 p.m. ET. The big caveat: Many of the yays and nays aren’t firm. TP’s trying to divine intent from casual statements made by House members about how they’re likely to vote, which is especially dicey in the case of Democrats who might be whipped by the White House and Pelosi later to come through for O in a pinch. If the tally’s right, though, then opponents of intervention are already within 50 votes of winning with more than 200 representatives (and nearly 100 Republicans) still undecided.
Time to panic in the West Wing?
As members of Congress consider President Obama’s request to authorize military force in Syria, following evidence that President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons killed over 1,400 people, a ThinkProgress analysis of the public statements of 289 Representatives found that 169 lawmakers have either decisively ruled out supporting the measure or say they are unlikely to back it.
Just 46 of the 289 members of the House of Representatives said they will definitely or likely vote in favor or the resolution. Seventy-four are undecided.
Of the 169 nays, 124 come from the GOP and 45 come from liberal Democrats. The obvious strategy here for undecided Dems, then, is to sit back and wait to see if Republicans can produce 49 more nays on their own to defeat the measure. There are 98 undecided GOPers, so if they split exactly in half then the resolution is dead and Democratic fencesitters can go ahead and vote yes en masse. That way they can say they had Obama’s back while not fearing too much backlash from the anti-war remnants of their base for supporting a measure that ended up dying anyway. What’s truly worrisome for O here is that, even on the Democratic side, there’s slightly more early opposition than there is support (just 35 votes). That means he won’t be able to scapegoat the GOP for blocking the resolution if the House torpedoes it. And it also means, per TP’s Judd Legum, that even if every single one of the 120 currently undecided Democrats votes yes, Obama would still need to win a majority of undecided Republicans — 52/46 — to reach 218 yays. Given what the polling on this issue looks like, how likely is that?
Tough call for the White House, then: If they can’t get those 45 liberals to flip and give O a fighting chance of getting to 218 with some marginal Republican help, is there any way they can avoid the political humiliation of losing a bipartisan House vote? Obama could, in theory, announce that he’s canceling plans for an attack, but that would be preposterous at this point after endless bluster about the world’s red line and two days of testimony from Kerry and Hagel about how it’s 1938 all over again or whatever. It’d be less humiliating to lose in the House, frankly, than it would be for him to pull back his attack plans semi-voluntarily. The other option is to ask the Senate to vote first and hope that the measure is filibustered. (And yes, 60 votes is the threshold in this situation.) As long as O gets to 51 yays, which should be easy with Democratic support, he can claim that a majority was in favor but those damned Republicans and the damned obstructionist rules of the Senate prevented the democratic will of the chamber from being worked, blah blah. Then the House wouldn’t need to vote at all, and O can spend the next three years whining about the filibuster.
In fact, I wonder if that’s what Ileana Ros-Lehtinen meant when she mentioned a strange “rumor” going around the Hill earlier today. She said she’d heard that only the Senate would vote on attacking Syria, not the House, which made it sound like she thought Obama would seek authorization from only one chamber instead of both. Kerry said he’d heard nothing about that and Eric Cantor’s spokesman said the House fully intends to act. Maybe it’s not a question of O seeking approval from only one chamber, though; maybe the rumor is that he intends to seek rejection from only one chamber so that the other, which is way more likely to humiliate him, never has to take the matter up. That would give him the best of both worlds, a defeat he can blame on Congress in order to extricate himself from this Syria mess plus minimal embarrassment in the process thanks to the left’s willingness to scapegoat the filibuster. We’ll see.