While it is widely-considered likely that Obama's authorization for the use of military force against Syria will pass in a Senate vote (currently anticipated to occur late next week), the House of Representatives is a completely different matter. There, the members are also under intense pressure from the White House, but are under growing pressure from their constituents to oppose the measure, and this is reflected in some House members stating they will vote against it, and numerous others saying that while they haven't decided, they are leaning against it. Most of the "leaning against" members are citing as reasons, the Administration's having failed to yet make a convincing case for the attack, and/or its lack of an articulated plan for conducting the action and getting out.
A Washington Post blog posting Thursday morning titled "The 'no's' keep piling up on Syria resolution in the House" gave the latest in the blogsite's "whip count" of how members are likely to vote, and said, "... the ranks of the opposition more than doubled from 34 on Tuesday morning to 86 by Thursday morning. Over that same span, the number of House members supporting the use of force increased by a whopping two, from 17 to 19. You heard that right: There are now more than four times as many opponents of military action in the House as supporters." After reporting on more numbers it said, "... it has become increasingly clear that a significant majority of House Republicans is likely to oppose the resolution."
That the House leadership doesn't have the votes to accommodate the President's wishes was undoubtedly reflected in a Politico report yesterday afternoon that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at an event in San Francisco that day, "hinted at the possibility of weeks of debate on a U.S. strike in Syria to allow for more input on a resolution authorizing military action. 'We have been told we have more time. ... They can accommodate a couple of weeks of debate. Our members want to have a say in shaping the resolution.'" The article went on to say that Speaker Boehner, meanwhile, "said he expects a vote next week. Pelosi's office clarified that the process could slip into the week of Sept. 16, since the Senate is unlikely to take up their resolution until the end of next week, giving members this week and the next to discuss the proposal."
Driving the Growing Opposition
What is driving the growing House opposition to war, is hardly a sudden attack of conscience, nor even GOP "whatever it is, I'm against it" attitudes about Obama. The political driver here is the growing rage of the American people in each of their districts, the people to whom they are responsible, and the people who will decide on their re-election in thirteen months. A snapshot of the phenomenon is seen in a local newspaper report from Lafourche Parish in Louisiana on a town hall meeting conducted by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.): "When Cassidy asked the crowd whether the U.S. should be involved in the Syrian conflict, a majority yelled no. Cassidy said he wasn't surprised by the response based on calls his office has received. 'We had three for and 100 against,' Cassidy said." Last week Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) ran a poll from his website asking "Should the United States use military force to intervene in Syria's civil war?", and later in the day reported that results so far are that 83.7% of those who have taken the poll to that point had answered "No." The Huffingon Post reported Thursday that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that his delegation is unpersuaded and that public reaction has been fiercely opposed, and also that Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said that he's also seeing intense disapproval. A U.S. News and World Reports article said that Amash held dozens of town this week and heard from dozens of voters who urged him to vote against the resolution. A similar report came from a LaRouche PAC organizing team on Capitol Hill, that in the dozen House offices they'd visited Wednesday, the phones were ringing off the hooks with calls against Obama's airstrikes.
Meanwhile, Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Cal.), addressing Sec. of Defense Hagel at yesterday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, said, as reported by CQ Transcripts, that he'd had a meeting on Saturday with a small group of veterans in his San Diego district, who had convinced him to ask a specific question at the hearing, which had been posed by one veteran with a son in the military: "And he believes that last time we went running off to war, that the facts that were given were lies or misleading. .... I told him all I had read and certainly now all that I have read does lead me to believe that chemical weapons were used and that children were gassed and, because of that, we do have to act. But he wanted you to promise that the facts that you've given us are true, to the best of your ability, that you're not lying, that you're not holding anything back, that what we've seen and what I've read, ... I want to make sure that you promise us that you're telling the truth."
Rep. Ami Bera told his constituents in an email that at the House Foreign Affairs hearing, he had shared with Secretaries Kerry and Hagel "the concerns I have been hearing from many of you — through your phone calls, letters, social media posts, and even at the grocery store."
In an email to his constituents this afternoon, Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-Fla.) reported, "I have heard from many of my constituents throughout this past week while traveling around the district. Almost everyone I've spoken with is against U.S. involvement in Syria at this time." He assured them that he'd gotten the classified briefing, and "I continue to not support the use of U.S. military force in Syria at this time," citing the lack of a compelling national interest or a clear target and strategy.
On Thursday, back in the hustings, South Dakota state legislator Tracey Nelson, who's a Marine veteran and retired Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) officer, an announced candidate for the U.S. Senate, and a vigorous co-sponsor of the state's Glass-Steagall resolution to Congress, put forward four conditions for U.S. military action in Syria. These are, that it's in the U.S. national interest; when there is a clear objective with definitive goals of success that lead to their departure from the combat zone; it's supported by the American people; and is only be done as a last resort and after all other means have failed. "Those criteria have NOT been met, I do not support involving the USA in the civil secular conflict in Syria," Nelson concluded.
House members who have come out definitely against the resolution in the past several days include:
* Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) in a 9/4 email to constituents: "I have no intention of voting to authorize American intervention in Syria. ... I remain strongly opposed to an action that I believe will in no way contribute to America's national security interests."
* Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) in a 9/4 email to constituents: " I am strongly opposed to this, and will vote no. It is my judgment, as a 29-year veteran of our Armed Forces, that military intervention would make the situation worse and make us responsible for that conflict."
* Rep. John Culbertson (R-Tex.) in a 9/3 email to constituents: "One side is Assad and Iran, the other side is Al Qaeda. We have no business supporting either side. America's job is to protect our vital national interests. ... The events in Syria are tragic for the innocent people involved, but it does not affect our vital national interests, so I will be voting 'no' on the use of force in Syria." Further, "President Obama's proposed mission does not include clear military objectives or clear policy goals. The information the President has shared with Congress leaves many unanswered questions. ..."
* Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) in a 9/3 email to constituents: "I strongly believe the President has failed to make the case to the American people. There are significant risks to launching an attack on Syria and we don't know who we are fighting for. The President has mishandled this situation from the very beginning and shown a complete lack of leadership with his imaginary redline. I will not support any funding request for an attack until the President acts to remove the burdens of sequestration from our military."
House members who have spoken about the problems they see with the use-of-force resolution, but have not definitively come out in opposition, include:
* Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a former Air Force pilot, is reported by the Salt Lake Tribune to have said at a town meeting last night that U.S. policy is "clearly ill-defined," and that he wants Obama to make his case for a military strike.
* Rep. John Larson (Conn.) "held a town hall forum asking locals to sound off on the crisis in Syria on Labor Day," according to a local TV report, which continued, " The West Hartford Town Hall was packed. Crowds extended throughout the halls and spilled outside with people anxiously trying to sway our congressman." Though the congressman was clearly in "listening" mode, the report noted, "Larson voted against the Iraq War and right now, with the way this Syria proposal is written, Larson said he isn't completely on board. 'It needs an awful lot of work, it's too open-ended and broad,' Larson said. 'I'm not in favor of committing troops on the ground. There's no reason for that and the case still needs to be proven.'..."
* Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) in a 9/5 email to constituents reporting on what the Congressman's done, said that in one tv interview he said that he needed to better understand the risks involved with a possible strike, and in another said that President needs to clarify why any intervention, even a limited one, is in the interest of the U.S. and provide a more detailed military strategy.
* Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) in a 9/3 email to constituents said she's considering the information she's received about Syria, but "Before the United States gets involved militarily in this situation, I want to hear a clear plan from our Commander-In-Chief for what happens next. What's the end game, and how will our military involvement help get us there?"
* Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) in a 9/3 email to constituents: "... the President has a lot of work to do to convince Arkansans and me that U.S. military action is appropriate in this instance. .... it will be an uphill battle for the president to convince me because I think he has handled this entire situation quite poorly. And frankly I am reluctant to give him a license for war when, with all due respect, I have little confidence he knows what he is doing in Syria."
* Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) in a 9/5 email to constituents: "... I am not convinced that the response the president proposes will prevent future attacks or bring any real stability to the region. I have many questions the briefings simply did not answer." After describing his questions, and his friendship and support for Obama and Kerry, Capuano said, "I remain wary, however, about becoming entangled in something that may make the situation worse in Syria. As this debate unfolds, I am mindful of the impact that a vote in support of military action will have. It is a vote to potentially send someone's son or daughter into harm's way. Votes on war and peace are the most consequential ones I take and I will not support military action except as a last resort, consistent with our principles and interests."