Pelosi begs Democrats for cooperation on Syria, but serious concerns remain

Middle EastUS Politics
Nancy Pelosi (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ AP)

Nancy Pelosi (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ AP)

It would seem the White House is having trouble getting all the votes it needs to move forward with a Syria attack. Mondoweiss has received a Dear Colleague letter from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to House Democrats begging for cooperation on new language to narrow down a resolution authorizing an attack. AIPAC allies, like Chris Van Hollen, are trying to narrow the language down to ensure passage, but John Kerry’s testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not reassure anyone that the operation will not swiftly escalate.

Here’s the email:

From: Democratic Leader
Sent: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 01:51 PM
Subject: PELOSI — Dear Colleague: Important Week for Discussion on Syria

September 4, 2013

Dear Colleague,

Our continuing discussion on the appropriate response to the Syrian government’s actions is affected by Congress not being in session.  However, this week is an important one in our discussion of what House Members are willing to support.  Yesterday, I asked for input, and I am grateful for those who made your concerns known.

Responses included suggestions to add language to prevent boots on the ground, to tie the authorization more closely to the use of chemical weapons and to address concerns about an open-ended timetable.  Chairman Israel has suggested language along these lines, and Congressmen Chris Van Hollen and Gerry Connolly have also put forward a proposal.

Please offer further suggestions or ideas you may have as to what you can support, so I can convey your concerns to the White House.

The House Democratic leadership joins Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger in encouraging you to read the classified intelligence report, which will be made available every day of the week for your review.  I also appreciate your suggestions and comments regarding the need to educate the American public.  As I have said before, the President needs to continue to make the intelligence case to the American people as to the Assad regime’s responsibility for the attack and why it’s in our national interest to respond to it.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this very important matter for which I am pleased that the President sought congressional authorization.

best regards,

NANCY PELOSI

Democratic Leader

The letter comes as hawkish officials are warning that President Barack Obama may not have the votes to pass the authorization for military force on Syria. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), one of the most pro-Israel members in the House, told the Washington Post that “no one in Congress could vote for” the bill as it stands now and that he doesn’t “know a member of Congress whose e-mails and phone calls are in favor of this.” The bill Obama sent to Congress has been criticized as expansive and could be interpreted as giving authority to attack Iran and Lebanon.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has already made changes to the bill, with the text now stipulating that military strikes would only be authorized for 60 days (with a 30-day extension) and that no ground troops could be used. The changed resolution passed yesterday in the committee by a 10-7 vote. But an amendment pushed by Senator John McCain states that the U.S. should “change the momentum” of the Syrian civil war, seek a democratic government and give arms to flow to vetted opposition groups.

The House, though, has yet to mark up the bill. The majority of House members–169 of them–have indicated they would likely vote no on the bill, according to a Think Progress count. 46 are likely to vote yes, with the rest undecided.

The full Senate and House votes are set for early next week. The Senators backing a strike on Syria will need 60 votes to close debate on the bill, and 51 to pass it in a second vote.

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