Sluggish support in U.S. Congress for Syria strike spells trouble for Obama

WASHINGTON. After failing to marshall Congress to endorse military strike against Syria on Thursday, U. S President Barack Obama may now need to spend more time and precious political capital to cajole undecided lawmakers, as well as the American public to support Syria strike, experts say.
A protester holds a banner as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies in a House of Representatives hearing about Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 4, 2013.. Net photo.
A protester holds a banner as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies in a House of Representatives hearing about Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 4, 2013.. Net photo.

WASHINGTON. After failing to marshall Congress to endorse military strike against Syria on Thursday, U. S President Barack Obama may now need to spend more time and precious political capital to cajole undecided lawmakers, as well as the American public to support Syria strike, experts say.

The problem began to emerge on Wednesday, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed their public mark up of the authorization resolution for over three hours, and passed it 10-7 only after it satisfied Sen. John McCain by adding language to change momentum on the ground. But the vote tally showed bipartisan support as well as bipartisan opposition, indicating Congress’ fractured state of opinion on the Syria issue.

Vote counts made by the press testifies to the point. CNN said the Senate, which is expected to vote on the resolution next week, has 24 yes votes, including the Democratic leadership and most committee chairs, and 17 no votes, with 59 still undecided. It is believed that if opponents resort to filibuster, Majority Leader Harry Reid may need to muster a supermajority of 60 votes to overcome them.

In the House, where all seats are to be contested in the election next year, there are only 26 yes votes, including both parties’ leadership. There are 102 no votes, 284 undecideds and 21 unknown as of Thursday afternoon, according to the CNN. A vote count by The Washington Post yields similar results. “Many in Congress, and not just Republicans, surely resent being called upon to authorize an action which public opinion polls indicate is widely unpopular, particularly among independent voters who can determine election outcomes in many states and congressional districts,” said Michael Barone, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

According to recent opinion polls, the majority of the American public are against a military strike against Syria, and support for action typically lingers somewhere between 20 to 30 percent. Members of Congress were acutely aware of the perils of supporting an unpopular military venture one year prior to an election. Reports indicated the House is poised to sit on any resolution after the Senate has voted on it. If it fails in Senate, the House might not take it up at all. Even if the Senate passed it, it could be the week of Sept. 16 before the House even begins to deliberate it on the chamber floor.

Faced with a war-weary nation, Congress has been complaining about the lack of administration effort to persuade the public.

 

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