Congress took the first formal step toward approving military action in Syria on Wednesday, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s 10-7 vote to send its resolution to the full chamber.
But whether or not the resolution winds up passing in the Senate, the real hurdle remains in the GOP-controlled House. And things on that front are looking progressively dimmer for the Obama administration.
Over the last two days, scores of members — most of them Republicans, but many of them Democrats — have expressed their opposition to the use of force in Syria.
According to The Fix’s handy-dandy whip count, the ranks of the opposition more than doubled from 34 on Tuesday morning to 86 by Thursday morning.
(Note: The whip list has been updated since this post went up. The numbers above reflect the latest numbers.)
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.
And that doesn’t even factor in the dozens of members who have expressed skepticism about Syria. According to The Fix’s latest numbers, 92 representatives have expressed hesitation but not complete opposition.
Combine that with the 86 “no” votes, and you’ve got 178 members who appear likely to vote “no” — nearly 60 percent of the 300 House members we currently have a read on. Another 103 are listed as purely “undecided.”
(Note: Our count includes 300 of 435 members whose statements we’ve reviewed. Other House members will be added to the count in the coming days, as they weigh in publicly.)
What’s clear from these numbers is that it’s much more popular right now to express reservations about or opposition to military action in Syria. And maybe that’s not surprising, given the polls show military action is well short of popular.
The question is whether that’s a sign of things to come — and members will continue to come out against military action en masse — or whether the opponents are simply the first ones to speak up and/or the loudest.
It’s probably a little from Column A and a little from Column B. What matters is whether it’s more A or B.
Regardless, it has become increasingly clear that a significant majority of House Republicans is likely to oppose the resolution. That means we are headed not just for questions about whether it would pass, but also about whether House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who supports the use of force — would bring it to a vote in violation of the so-called “Hastert Rule,” which requires a majority of the majority party to support a bill for it to be brought to a vote.
Given the strong demand for congressional input from both advocates and opponents of military action, it seems there’s at least a fair chance he will. Even if Boehner were to bring it to a vote, though, the minority Democrats would need to be pretty close to united, according to our current count. As of now, that’s not that case, with 22 Democrats expressing opposition and 24 more expressing skepticism.
All of it adds up to a very difficult path for the use of force resolution in the House.
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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he has no plans to filibuster the use of military force against the Syria government.
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The Senate is expected to return for a brief session on Friday in order to swiftly move the Syria resolution that passed out of committee Wednesday to the Senate floor.
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“Obama, in Stockholm, says that on Syria, ‘the international community cannot be silent’” — Philip Rucker and Will Englund, Washington Post
“Obama Faces Barrier in His Own Party on Syria” — Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times
“With new grass-roots muscle, Heritage Foundation stirs the base and alienates allies” — Matea Gold and Lori Montgomery, Washington Post
Updated at 10:35 a.m. with new whip count.