Obama and co.'s Congressional war obstacles

Antiwar dems in the House looking to stand up to seemingly inevitable Syria attacks

By Natasha Lennard
September 5, 2013 5:00PM (UTC)
main article image

With the administration's war drums banging hard and the resolution to launch purportedly limited strikes against Syria moving smoothly to a Senate vote (buoyed by moralism-drench speechifying and the nod from House leaders), a U.S. attack on Syria seems all but inevitable.

But as news outlets have highlighted this morning: A chorus of opposing Congress members (particularly Democrats) are readying to obstruct the president's war plans.


Any ABC News projection of likely House votes puts the probable number of resolution supporters at only 25, with 136 likely to oppose and 153 still (crucially) undecided.

House Democratic leaders in Obama's own face an uphill battle in convincing a number of their own to follow in goose step to more military action in the Middle East, the New York Times noted:

On Wednesday the White House chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, convened a conference call for members of the House Progressive Caucus. Early next week, Susan E. Rice, the president’s national security adviser, will brief members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

But even with her widely acknowledged ability to marshal her members in the toughest of political predicaments, Ms. Pelosi could find that in matters of conscience like war, party loyalty is not as powerful a force as it has been for her in the past.

“I wasn’t elected just to go along to get along,” said Representative Gregory W. Meeks, another New Yorker leaning against supporting military action in Syria. “I was elected to utilize my thought process and to determine what I think is in the best interest of my district.”

Other Democrats who have expressed strong reservations include many veteran members like Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Jim McDermott of Washington and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.

... For many Democrats who voted against the Iraq war authorization in 2002, that experience weighs heavily today. Though they say the parallels often cited by the president’s opponents are exaggerated — this time, for example, Congress would set strict time limits on the duration of the military engagement — the outcome of another conflict that could become intractable and prolonged is impossible to predict.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

MORE FROM Natasha LennardFOLLOW natashalennardLIKE Natasha Lennard