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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs