News / USA

    US Congress Fight Over Syria Pits Establishment Versus Upstarts

    (2nd L table, L - R) U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, present administration's case for military action against Syria to a Senate Foreign Relation Committee hearing in Washington, Sept. 3, 2013.
    (2nd L table, L - R) U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, present administration's case for military action against Syria to a Senate Foreign Relation Committee hearing in Washington, Sept. 3, 2013.
    Reuters
    The U.S. Congress, which votes largely along party lines on most issues, is displaying a different kind of split in the debate over Syria. Experienced lawmakers who support President Barack Obama's plans for military action are lining up against more skeptical and rebellious newcomers mostly from the ideological edges of both parties.

    A similar pattern emerged earlier this year on a proposal to limit surveillance by the National Security Agency, which failed in the U.S. House of Representatives but attracted significant support both from Tea Party members and libertarians and Democratic liberals.

    While the Republican leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives came out in support of Obama on Tuesday, a House Republican aide, who asked not to be identified, said he expected most Tea Party-backed Republicans, around 50 lawmakers, to vote against any resolution in the chamber, which currently has 433 voting members.

    Their rationale, the aide said, is that the United States should not be involved in military action unless it is attacked. The Democratic leadership of Congress is mostly supportive of Obama as well.

    But according to a rough count, about 30 or 35 Democrats in the House and four or five in the U.S. Senate have made statements leaning against military strikes.

    While some are veteran liberals, most are newer arrivals such as Illinois freshman Representative Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran. 

    "Until I feel it's imperative to our national security, I will not support pre-emptive intervention in Syria," Duckworth said in a statement last week. "America shouldn't bear the burden unilaterally, especially since none of our allies, including those in the region, have committed to action."

    Many say it is too early to call the vote. But some early estimates of how members could line up point to a group of House liberal Democrats, including some Congressional Black Caucus members, leaning against the resolution and joining hands with their ideological opposites - conservative and libertarian Republicans who eagerly have defied their leaders' wishes on several major issues earlier this year.

    People, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, are treated at a hospital in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Aug. 21, 2013.People, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, are treated at a hospital in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Aug. 21, 2013.
    x
    People, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, are treated at a hospital in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Aug. 21, 2013.
    People, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, are treated at a hospital in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Aug. 21, 2013.
    Obama has asked Congress to authorize limited action in response to what the administration says was a sarin gas attack by the Syrian government that killed more than 1,400 people, hundreds of them children, near Damascus on Aug. 21.

    Similar pattern

    The NSA vote earlier this year was on a proposal made jointly by conservative Representative Justin Amash and liberal Representative John Conyers, both from Michigan. The measure failed in the house by 12 votes, with 111 Democrats and 94 Republicans in support.

    Particularly in the case of the Democrats, early statements do not mean they will ultimately cast a vote against military action in Syria.

    The situation is evolving rapidly on Capitol Hill, and members do not yet know the actual wording of the resolution they will be asked to vote on, which is still being crafted. Things looked relatively bleak for Obama on Monday, for example, but they improved significantly on Tuesday when the top leaders of the House - Republicans and Democrats – announced their support of a military operation.

    Such endorsements do not carry as much weight as they did in years past, however. That was illustrated vividly shortly after House Speaker John Boehner announced his position, when young conservatives started bucking him.

    "I'm new here," said Representative Trey Radel, a Tea Party Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which will craft a resolution authorizing military action against Syria. "But being new here, I am very skeptical of Republicans and Democrats that have dragged us into wars of the past."

    The freshman Florida congressman added, "When we look at Afghanistan and Iraq, I am questioning still today what is the end goal within these countries; what have we accomplished with so many lives being lost."

    "We are going to see a significant number of anti-war Democrats join with a new generation of neo-isolationist Republicans," said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

    "They will, in turn, be joined by some Republicans who might not believe those things but just don't want to vote for anything that Barack Obama is for," he said.

    Ornstein said, however, that Obama is in "incomparably better shape today than he was two days ago" in his drive to win congressional approval of limited military action.

    Coalitions emerging

    "These coalitions that are emerging are quite different than what we normally see, even on authorizations for war and defense/military related votes," said Sarah Binder, a Brookings Institution scholar."

    On the Republican side, the issues here are between a growing isolationist-conservative wing of both the House and Senate Republican conference, contrasted with more traditional conservative 'war hawk' members of the Republican Party," she said.

    "The question is, how deep do those divisions run?....I think it probably will be a close vote down to the wire."

    Representative Steve Israel, a member of the House Democratic leadership, predicted a consensus will emerge that will overshadow the messy fight in the run-up to votes.

    "At the end of the day, if a majority of the House of Representatives supports a form of this resolution, how we got there will be largely irrelevant," Israel predicted.
    Loading...

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora