Undecided Lawmakers Key to Fate of Syria Vote

Uphill Struggle To Line Up Liberals and GOP Moderates

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By Reuters

Published September 06, 2013.
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The fate of a congressional resolution to authorize President Barack Obama’s planned military strikes on Syria hinges on scores of undecided U.S. lawmakers, with party loyalty appearing increasingly irrelevant.

Even after congressional hearings featuring Obama’s secretaries of state and defense, a half dozen closed-door briefings and phone calls from Obama himself, it was too close to call on whether Congress will authorize military force.

Some Beltway analysts say vote counts show a large majority against the measure in the House of Representatives and one congressional {aide told Politico](http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/obama-syria-house-vote-96347.html?hp=t1) it has a less than 40% chance of passage.

No more than around 50 House Republicans are expected to back the president, meaning he needs the vast majority of Democrats.

Jewish groups have openly backed the measure, including the hawkish AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League. But it’s not clear whether that push will resonate with Jewish lawmakers. At least one Jewish liberal, Alan Grayson of Florida, says he will vote against the measure.

Obama asked Congress to back his plan for limited strikes in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians that the United States blames on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

First-term Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who had been seen as a possible swing vote, dealt the president a setback when he announced on Thursday he would oppose the resolution to authorize military strikes.

“Given the case that has been presented to me, I believe that a military strike against Syria at this time is the wrong course of action,” Manchin said.

Republican Representative Michael Grimm, who initially backed Obama’s call last month for military strikes, withdrew his support on Thursday. “Unfortunately, the time to act was then and the moment to show our strength has passed,” said Grimm, a Marine combat veteran.

If Obama fails to win congressional support, he would face two undesirable options. One would be to go ahead with military strikes anyway, which could provoke an angry showdown with Congress over their respective powers.

The other would be to do nothing, which White House officials privately acknowledge would damage the credibility of any future Obama ultimatum to other countries.

Twenty-four of the Senate’s 100 members oppose or lean toward opposing authorizing military strikes, according to estimates by several news organizations, with an equal number favoring military action and roughly 50 undecided.

Every vote will count in the Senate, where a super-majority of 60 will likely be needed because of possible procedural hurdles for a final vote on approving military action.


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