President Obama seems rather optimistic that he will have the Congressional votes needed to authorize force against Syria when the body returns from its August recess next week. But like we saw with British Prime Minister David Cameron last week when the House of Commons voted down their version of a resolution authorizing force against the Middle Eastern nation, is the president being too optimistic that when the vote finally happens stateside he will have the 218 votes necessary for it to pass?
The president voiced his optimism during a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in the hopes of winning over support for his request to authorize limited military strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
“So long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to send a clear message to Assad, to degrade his capabilities to use chemical weapons, not just now but also in the future, as long as the authorization allows us to do that, I’m confident that we’re going to be able to come up with something that hits that mark,” Obama said.
According to the progressive organization ThinkProgress, however, as of press time only 38 of the chamber’s 435 members have publicly stated that they will vote ‘yes’ or are leaning toward voting ‘yes’ to a resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria. Out of the remaining 400, 126 of them have already announced that they would either vote ‘no’ or are leaning toward voting ‘no’ to the resolution, and 67 members are undecided about how they will vote.
Just 38, or 30 percent, of the already announced ‘yes’ or ‘lean yes’ votes come from Democrats. Same with 27 of the 67 undecided votes. At the rate the votes are falling, the president will need at least 50 Republicans to vote ‘yes’ for the resolution if it is to pass – a very difficult feat considering how polarized the chamber is.
The president does have the support of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who both announced Tuesday morning that they will back the resolution.
“The use of chemical weapons is a barbarous act,” Boehner said Tuesday, according to USA TODAY. “The use of these weapons has to be responded to.”
While this will likely help bring more leadership votes and the support of die-hard establishment Republicans to the yes side, it likely won’t bring over the 50-odd votes that the president needs for the bill to pass.
Obama then has to get the bill passed the senate, which is an easier but not guaranteed feat. Both Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), two of his fiercest foreign policy critics, have said that they will back the authorization vote. The majority of Republican senators, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, are likely to vote ‘no.’
“While we are learning more about his plans, Congress and our constituents would all benefit from knowing more about what it is he thinks needs to be done — and can be accomplished — in Syria and the region,” McConnell said in a statement Tuesday.
The momentum is quickly turning on Obama, who is rushing to save face after repeatedly stalling once it was confirmed that Assad’s regime crossed the so-called “red line.” The ball is out of the president’s court now, and choosing to be cocky about something far from guaranteed will only serve to hurt Obama in the end.