As we begin Day 5 of our whip effort, the dynamics that will shape a final House vote are starting to become clear. This is where we stand:
Syria War Vote Count Fri Sept 6 2013
Politico has an article on where the vote stands entitled “Obama Could Lose Big on Syria in House.” Their analysis is that once AIPAC and Boehner are done whipping they should be able to pull 50-60 votes out the Republican caucus, and Pelosi is stuck between 115-130 votes.
I’ve never whipped Republicans before, but there is a tradition there of bucking leadership that doesn’t exist on the Democratic side. And from what I can see, with public opinion at their back, they GOP is having far too good a time dropping this on the Democrats to back down easily.
With 233 Republicans in the House, 178 have already declared some sort of direction on Syria. Which mean there are only 58 more members to tap before leadership has to start pulling votes from people who have already declared their opposition. And the Republican whip, Kevin McCarthy, seems none too excited about the prospect of war with Syria. So they’re going to have to work like dogs to get to 50-60.
What does that mean for the Democrats? Well, many will remember that we whipped a very similar issue once before in 2009 when the war supplemental came up for a vote. Because the President attached the IMF funding to it the Republicans voted “nay” en block, which meant it had to pass with Democratic votes. So we got to see the true colors of anti-war members of Congress when Nancy Pelosi drops the pimp hand.
We needed to hold 39 votes in order to keep the bill from passing.
We knew in the end we’d lose because all they had to do was separate the IMF funding from the supplemental and it would pass. But we opposed it on principle because it made the left look like a bunch of war hypocrites.
I was really shocked at how long we were able to keep them from passing the supplemental. What was supposed to be an easy vote took 10 days for them to whip, and Obama himself wound up having to call members of Congress. Pelosi finally just called for a the vote and had to keep it open for 4 hours, finally staring down her caucus in order to get the votes she needed to pass the bill.
In the end we held 32 votes, and my gut feeling was there were probably another 5 or 6 that would have “done it for my President” if they really needed to. The composition of the caucus is different now, and the member of Congress who led that effort — Maxine Waters — is already pretty much committed to voting in favor of Syria.
So my wild-arsed guess is that Pelosi hits liberal bedrock around 20-25 votes, which would the Republicans only had to muster 37-42 votes. But there is another dynamic at play here that wasn’t there in the 2009 supplemental vote.
Regardless of how many votes they deliver, the Republicans are going to hang this on the Democrats. And Democrats in swing districts could face the very real prospect of losing their seats over this. Pelosi held all the swing votes last time around, but nobody wants to lose their seat for Obama — and they know from experience with the ACA he has no problem hanging them out to dry.
In the end I trust none of them, so I treat all the “lean no’s” in the Democratic column with extreme skepticism. But my 2nd wild-arsed guess of the day is that swing districts will cost Pelosi another 15-20 votes, which means the Republicans may well need 50-60 votes to close the deal.
Congressional offices on both sides of the aisle are running 100:1 against. And with that John McCain video clearly demonstrating what happens to members of Congress who defect from public sentiment on this issue, that may be hard to do.
Update 9:56 AM: Obama now speaking from St. Petersburg on Syria. Says he will address the nation on Tuesday.
Compares inaction in Syria to Rwanda. [Sorry, we weren't already bad players in the region with a recent history of exacerbating existing tensions and making the entire situation much much worse, to the point that no other nation wants to be associated with us. The comparison is not apt.]
Update 10:25 AM: Jose Serrano (D-NY) firm nay, issuing a press release that says “I have thought long and hard about this decision and have come to the firm conclusion that I cannot vote in favor of war.” It is notable because I believe Serrano is in the safest district in the country (D+43).
Brett Guthrie (R-KY) lean nay: “I think I should get to Washington and hear what they have to say and then make that decision. But what I’ve heard, I’m not willing to go for it.”
John Yarmuth (D-KY) lean nay: “The congressman isn’t convinced the U.S. should get involved.” Yarmuth is the sole Democrat in the Kentucky delegation, and this is one of those votes Pelosi will have to worry about losing.
Duncan Hunter (R-CA) moves from lean yea to lean nay: “If we’re going to authorize the use of force, and we do strike Syria, we need to go all in, 100 percent, hell-bent on setting them back a decade when it comes to their weapons capability, period. There can be no half-measures.” (Putting him in the lean yea category may have been me being overly cautious in interpreting his rhetoric in the first place, so not too significant.)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) firm nay: “I cannot support any authorization unless and until my questions are answered fully.”
Steve King R-IA lean nay: “Iowa’s four congressmen are mostly “leaning against” a congressional resolution authorizing a U.S. missile strike against Syria. 4th District Republican Steve King told The Omaha World Herald it appears to him President Obama is intent on killing Syrians to convince Syria’s president to stop killing Syrians.”
Pat Tiberi (R-OH) lean nay: “U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Delaware County, reiterated Thursday that’s he leaning against supporting a Senate resolution backing military action in Syria, but noted he has yet to decide how he’ll vote ‘because I need to hear the president’s case.’”
John Sarbanes (D-MD) firm yea: “I’m sympathetic with the president’s instinct on [attacking Syria].”
Fred Upton (R-MI) lean nay: “Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, is not persuaded that military action against Syria is the correct step and is leaning toward voting no, he said during a Thursday interview with MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette and WMUK 102.1 FM.”
Mike Coffman (R-CO) goes from lean yea to undecided: “Coffman’s initial support for the plan, which came before President Barack Obama asked for congressional approval, unequivocally supported a limited military strike in retaliation for the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons, but now Coffman says he’s undecided as the vote approaches.”
Ami Bera (D-CA) goes from firm yea to lean no: “He’s leaning “no,” and if he votes that way, it could cost him goodwill with the White House and House leaders – a risky move for a low-ranking freshman who has other legislative goals to achieve for the district he represents.
Virginia Foxx (R-VA) lean nay: “As debate over that question continues prior to the upcoming vote on authorization, I will be looking for the President to offer evidence to support his belief that America’s national security is best served by initiating his proposed military involvement. However, at this point, I remain unconvinced.”"
Marcia Fudge (D-OH) lean nay: “If I had to vote today, it would be “no,” because I don’t have enough information as to where we are going, how long we’re going to be there, the extent of the military and the cost,” she said.
Pat Meehan (R-PA) lean nay: “Sending our men and women into combat is the most grave decision a public official can make, and so far I’m not satisfied that this administration has sufficiently answered these questions to the Congress and the American people.”
Paul Tonko (D-NY) lean nay: “Rep. Paul Tonko says he ‘very concerned’ about the prospect of military action in Syria, and suggested he would buck President Barack Obama and vote against any resolution in Congress to authorize airstrikes.”
Update 2:17 PM: David Valadao (R-CA) lean nay: “Valadao…said in an interview Wednesday that he was a “lean no,” based on his own questions as well as the apparently widespread skepticism of his constituents in Fresno, Kern, Tulare and Kings counties.”
George Miller (D-CA) lean yea: “Miller said the resolution has to be rewritten and that Congress “must make it clear that this debate is not about authorizing a broad, unchecked use of force.” (Van Hollen has written such a draft, so Miller goes down as a lean yea.)
Adam Schiff (D-CA) lean yea: “[H]e hopes the Congress will construct an authorization bill that is more specific than the one the administration proposes.” (The Van Hollen draft does this, see George Miller above.)
Update 2:31 PM: ABC has a great whip count up. Everyone has different criteria for putting everyone in particular category, so I’ll explain why ours differs from theirs.
They list George Miller and Adam Schiff as “leaning nay.” But Miller and Schiff are using the same rhetoric that Becerra and Van Hollen used, knowing Van Hollen was writing a draft that would prevent boots on the ground.
Now I know George Miller will buck Pelosi when pigs fly. So it would be entirely dishonest for me to put him in the “nay” category, whereas ABC may have other insights that lead them to that decision.
Likewise, Think Progress has an equally whip terrific list. But they put Jackie Speier in the “lean no” category. I find her rhetoric to be the same as the fence sitters, so I haven’t put her on the list yet. Same thing for Jerry McNerney and Niki Tsongas on the ABC list.
Bottom line: every member of Congress is a judgment call at this point, barring those who have explicitly said they will vote yea or nay no matter what. If anyone has insights that we should take into account when assigning someone to a category please leave it in the comments and I’ll be only too happy to review it.
Update 3:45 PM: From the Washington Post: A War the Pentagon Doesn’t Want
And a right-wing challenger goes after Mitch McConnell on Syria.
Update 6:34 PM: Dave Camp (R-MI) lean nay: “U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, said he has yet to be convinced that military intervention in Syria makes sense.”
Update 7:20 PM: Kay Granger (R-TX) firm nay: “From everything I have learned, intervening in Syria’s civil war is not in the best interest of the United States.”
Gregg Harper (R-MS) lean nay: “The Obama administration so far has put forth no convincing argument that would compel U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper to vote for military action in Syria, he said on Wednesday.”
Alan Nunalee (R-MS) lean nay: “Mississippi Rep. Steven Palazzo and Alan Nunelee are both in the “Lean No” category, with a quote by Nunelee saying, “I haven’t seen that the U.S. is threatened by the events in Syria.”
Richard Hudson (R-NC) firm nay: “Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican from Concord, said Friday he will oppose U.S. military action in Syria.
Update 8:00 PM: Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) moves from lean nay to firm nay: “Republican Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner and Sean Duffy said Wednesday that they will vote against military intervention in Syria.”
Doug Lamborn (R-CO) lean nay: “GOP Reps. Cory Gardner, Scott Tipton and Doug Lamborn all said they were leaning against voting on any military action, though all said they wanted more intelligence and wanted to hear more from constituents.”
Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) moves from firm yea to undecided: “Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Jefferson County, said a week ago he was more favorable to a limited military strike, but now he isn’t sure.”
Kenny Marchant (R-TX) firm nay: “I will not vote for U.S. military intervention in Syria.”
And with that we reach 240 firm nay + lean nay