Pelosi: I don't know if Obama can get a majority of House Democrats to support a Syria attack

With every new whip count I see, I’m more confident that the Senate will spare O the humiliation of a House landslide by killing the Syria resolution itself. At last check, WaPo has the House at 19 likely yays versus 178 likely nays; Adrian Gray has it at 47/187; ABC has it at 45/199; and Think Progress, which counted 169 nays yesterday afternoon, has now hit the 200 mark with only 49 yays offsetting.


Remember, if you believe what Pelosi said yesterday, she’s not whipping House Democrats on this. There is, in theory, no pressure from the Democratic leadership in Congress to take one for the team here. Endgame for intervention?

Can you get a majority of your caucus? Is that important?

I don’t know. I think it would be important to get a majority in the Congress. But I don’t know if it’s important how you would break it down. These issues are not really partisan…

What was your reaction to the decision to bring this to Congress?

I was encouraging consultation. I did not believe that the President needs to get authorization from Congress. I think that it is great that he asked for it. I think that it strengthens his hand, and our country’s hand, and our moral standing to Bashar Assad to have Congress support it. But it’s a challenge for the reasons you mentioned. It’s a challenge because the country is weary of war. This is a president who has taken us out of two wars. He has unwound the Iraq War and now the Afghanistan War. He knows, as Commander-in-chief, better than anybody how weary of war our country is.

And so it came to be that Pelosi, who rose to power as Speaker promising that Congress would check the renegade president in his quixotic mission against a gas-wielding Baathist, now thinks congressional approval isn’t necessary against Assad. Follow the link and read the rest of the interview, where she strains hard to distinguish the Iraq war from this while also insisting that using WMD is an eternal international red line. I can only assume that if Assad promised not to use gas again for at least 15 years, Pelosi would be willing to let him slide the same way she was apparently okay with letting Saddam slide on the red line for having used it against the Kurds years before the U.S. attacked. You’d trust him if he said that, wouldn’t you? Nancy evidently trusted that Saddam’s gas-spraying days were over. Why not give the lunatic in Damascus the benefit of the doubt too?


Lots of stories in the news today about skittish House Dems balking at Syria — this one, about anti-war Rep. Gerry Connolly straining to find a “principled” exception to his philosophy for his party’s president, is my favorite — but Obama still has cards to play. There’s still a classified briefing on Assad’s WMD for Congress to come; there may be an Oval Office address in the works; there may also be a media campaign to show the public what a gas attack does to its victims, especially children. Polls show that public skepticism does tend to soften when WMD is introduced into the calculus of whether to go to war. And of course, there’s apt to be some out-and-out vote-buying. If partisan loyalty can’t dragoon Democrats into voting with O, maybe bribes can:

“I think the White House candy store is open,”said John Bolton, a former U.N. ambassador under President Bush who opposes a military strike against Syria, on Fox News Tuesday. “What do you need for your district or state? A post office? A new military facility? What do you want? I think anything you want you’re going to get because the White House is going to do whatever it takes to get a majority.”

So we have the irony that, even as the administration’s arguments for intervention become less coherent, its chances of prevailing by playing on tribal loyalties and the use of “non-policy” arguments are increasing.

And people thought the pressure and the wheeling and dealing that forced through passage of Obamacare were unseemly.


If I worked in the White House, my worry now wouldn’t be trying to win the House vote. It’d be trying to minimize the embarrassment of losing the vote overwhelmingly, along bipartisan lines. If he can win back some liberals and force the GOP to block the measure with a heavy majority of its own caucus, then at least Obama can blame Republican obstructionism for his problems. How likely is it that he can win those liberals over, though? Per the Journal, the lefty PAC Progressive Change Campaign Committee polled 55,000 of its one million members on Syria — and found 73 percent opposed. Democratic voters generally are also opposed, albeit less heavily. Which probably explains Pelosi’s reluctance to whip the caucus: If this thing’s headed for defeat via Republican opposition, with her own base perfectly fine with that, what’s her incentive to go to the mat for O?

Exit question: Why isn’t OFA pushing hard for Syria intervention either? Does O want to lose this vote?

Update: Hope springs eternal:

Aides believe that many of those who say they are leaning No are not necessarily at that point. Aides believe there’s a lot of pressure on Dems — given the unpopularity of strikes with constituents, as reflected in the polls, and given some of the pressure being directed to offices by liberal groups — to downplay the possibility of a Yes vote later. So aides think the whip counts don’t tell the real story…

Dem aides believe they probably need around 120-130 Dems for the resolution to pass, because they think they’ll get around 90-100 Republicans (with most voting No). They think that they can get there. This would draw on Yes votes from 40 or so hawkish, interventionist Dems types who will be persuadable by groups like AIPAC; plus a sizable bloc of moderate Dems who aren’t too worried about the Dem base and will be genuinely gettable; plus some more votes drawn from around several dozen hard-to-classify Dems who are more focused on domestic affairs. Dem aides think they can get the numbers they need even if around 60 progressive Dems prove ungettable.


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