Obama faces challenge with House GOP freshmen

Persuading first-term Republicans in the House is President Barack Obama's toughest sell on military strikes against Syria.
Associated Press
Sep 6, 2013

Many of the three dozen freshmen in the House come from solidly GOP districts where voters have a deep distrust of the president on health care and immigration. Members of the Washington establishment just a few months, the freshmen barely know President Barack Obama, as his invitations to exclusive White House dinners, part of the president's postelection charm offensive, have been to senators only.

For these first-termers, their only brush with the president came in March when Obama visited Capitol Hill to talk with all House Republicans. Today he's asking them to vote for war, and their reluctance highlights the president's daunting task in securing congressional approval.

"I haven't heard a word about how the targeted, limited strikes protect America's national security," Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski said in an interview. "How does this fit into a long-term plan for the Middle East? What is the endgame? Giving (Syrian President Bashar) Assad two weeks to move all his weaponry around while we sit here and do whatever the president's doing? I've got a lot of questions; my district has got a lot of questions."

Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued a statement on Friday saying that at this point, she could not support the president's request and his "incomplete case to the American people," though she promised to take a close look at any legislation.

Among the Republican freshmen class of 37, including returning members such as Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Steve Stockman of Texas, at least seven lawmakers have said they would vote against giving Obama the authority to use military force against Syria, two have announced their support and the rest remain undecided. The president faces growing congressional opposition from Republicans and Democrats even though a Senate committee delivered crucial support with a narrow vote Wednesday for force.

Three members of the Senate Armed Services announced their opposition on Thursday: Republicans David Vitter of Louisiana and Mike Lee of Utah, and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. An Associated Press survey found 34 senators in support or leaning in favor, 32 against or leaning and 34 undecided ahead of votes next week.

The president has argued that a limited military response is warranted after chemical weapons attacks that the administration says killed more than 1,400 civilians, including at least 400 children. The Syrian government denies responsibility, contending that rebels fighting to topple the Assad government were to blame.

Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and an announced 'no' vote, challenged Obama's argument that the credibility of the international community and Congress was on the line.

"Did we have credibility under Ronald Reagan?" Radel said in an interview. "Chemical weapons under Saddam Hussein were used in 1987 and we did nothing and I do not think that our credibility was compromised in any way, shape or form."

Radel is one House freshman who has had a personal connection with Obama, albeit brief.

"I got to shake his hand, meet him, actually shared a little moment," Radel said, recalling the GOP conference meeting in March. "I lived in Chicago a couple of years and I know for a fact that he used to frequent a blues club where I'd hang out."

Another Republican freshman, Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin, said in a statement that "it is not the responsibility of the United States to get involved in a country's civil war. Neither side in this civil war has the United States' best interest in mind."

Two GOP freshmen said they would support military action: Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, president of the freshman class, and Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. Messer warned the administration that it must do more to rally support.

"America doesn't like to watch bullies stand by and do evil things to their people. But the American people inherently understand, intuitively understand, that there are high risks to action here too," Messer told Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, at a House hearing Wednesday.

"And if I were to make a suggestion, I think we've got a lot of work to do to help the American people understand why the risks of action are less than the risk of inaction," he said.

The top two Republicans in the House — Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia — support Obama on limited military action against Syria, but rank-and-file Republicans have repeatedly bucked the leadership this year, at least on domestic issues. A vote to authorize military force is a matter of conscience in which leadership is unlikely to pressure lawmakers.

Defense hawks such as Sen. John McCain, the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee and an aggressive proponent of military strikes, have little sway with House Republicans, especially the 100-plus who were elected in the past two elections. Many of the tea party-driven 2010 class and the 2012 lineup comprise the GOP's noninterventionist wing.

Potentially influential with freshmen is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group. In a statement this week, the organization urged lawmakers to back military force, saying, "Barbarism on a mass scale must not be given a free pass."

A large delegation of AIPAC members plan to press lawmakers on Capitol Hill next week.

Walorski, the Indiana freshman, was part of a congressional group that traveled to Israel last month on a trip sponsored by the education foundation of AIPAC.

"We were standing on the Syrian border two weeks ago and the artillery fire — you could hear it, you could feel it in your feet, you could feel it in your chest, nonstop," Walorski said.

New York Rep. Chris Collins recalled staring across the Golan Heights into Syria.

"The Israeli position will carry some weight with me," Collins said in an interview. "They are the country that would bear the brunt of any kind of retaliation."

Comments

There you go again

I bet Obama wishes he could take back all those accusations and ugly comments he made about Republicans. He sure could use them now. Poor guy......

deertracker

He needs Democrats also. I hope the resolution fails. I think he is right for wanting to act but America can't save everyone all the time all alone. The leaders in the region need to step up!

Fromthe419

Maybe this will be the issue that brings the far right and the far left together, going in to Syria will be a disaster. I think there are many centrists that agree the "Endless Wars" must stop, it is bankrupting our Nation. Bring our troops home and stop policing the world, let someone else do it, we can't afford it and we should not be doing it.

Contango

Pres. Obama has made himself the political point man.

Prior to his leaving, Rahm Emanuel was the guy with sharp elbows.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/...

Who else is making his case and deal making on Capital Hill?

arnmcrmn

Oblama better be very careful here. He isn't getting the support he thought he would get for a pointless war that will cost billions and change nothing.

Now he attempt another teleprompter TV ad trying to get people who don't really watch the news or pay attention that much, emotionally connected to Syria with a series of speeches describing how bad some have it over there. If he can, Im sure he will use pictures.

I still do not think he will get the support he needs from both sides and if he decides to go at this alone, he's done as the president for the majority that supported him. This will also affect whoever is running D in 2016 in a big way.

deertracker

If the resolution fails I don't think he will go it alone. Not going to happen!

Contango

Re: "I don't think he will go it alone."

I don't agree. I think that the elitist SOB is just egotistical, sociopathic & narcissistic enough to do it.

He's playing the game of: Look what you made me do.

deertracker

I think you are wrong pooh!

Contango

Re: "I think,"

His dictatorial track record of shoving Obamacare down the throats of Americans and his "we can't wait" BS says otherwise Bambie.

Huron_1969

I hope you're right !!!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

As with Huron I hope you are right, deertracker. I hope the President and our representatives in Congress listen to their constituents on this matter. I am actually seeing this act as a great coming together/middle ground for the majority of both parties to meet. Maybe it will help us get some other things done that need doing?

We have some budget talks coming up and I'd hate for this to be a distraction.

Darwin's choice

Let's try this.....

"WASHINGTON—As President Obama continues to push for a plan of limited military intervention in Syria, a new poll of Americans has found that though the nation remains wary over the prospect of becoming involved in another Middle Eastern war, the vast majority of U.S. citizens strongly approve of sending Congress to Syria.

The New York Times/CBS News poll showed that though just 1 in 4 Americans believe that the United States has a responsibility to intervene in the Syrian conflict, more than 90 percent of the public is convinced that putting all 535 representatives of the United States Congress on the ground in Syria—including Senate pro tempore Patrick Leahy, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and, in fact, all current members of the House and Senate—is the best course of action at this time.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the United States, and the global community as a whole, to move forward with the deployment of all U.S. congressional leaders to Syria immediately,” respondent Carol Abare, 50, said in the nationwide telephone survey, echoing the thoughts of an estimated 9 in 10 Americans who said they “strongly support” any plan of action that involves putting the U.S. House and Senate on the ground in the war-torn Middle Eastern state. “With violence intensifying every day, now is absolutely the right moment—the perfect moment, really—for the United States to send our legislators to the region.”

“In fact, my preference would have been for Congress to be deployed months ago,” she added.

Citing overwhelming support from the international community—including that of the Arab League, Turkey, and France, as well as Great Britain, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Japan, Mexico, China, and Canada, all of whom are reported to be unilaterally in favor of sending the U.S. Congress to Syria—the majority of survey respondents said they believe the United States should refocus its entire approach to Syria’s civil war on the ground deployment of U.S. senators and representatives, regardless of whether the Assad regime used chemical weapons or not.

In fact, 91 percent of those surveyed agreed that the active use of sarin gas attacks by the Syrian government would, if anything, only increase poll respondents’ desire to send Congress to Syria."

Contango

Re: "limited military intervention,"

IMO, that phrase tends to read: Punch in the nose.

The question always is: What happens next?

"Obama’s Limited Strikes Plan Faces Risks of Escalation"

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/20...

Stop It

That was a good one, Darwin's choice. I must say that I'm all for it, as well.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Heh, I find the news source for this to be one of the most trusted out there. It's one I certainly frequent often!

arnmcrmn

Contango....all Obama will do is fire up that region with this plan. You want to actually change Syria, be prepared for another 200 billion dollar + war that will span out about 10 years and cost many of lives.

coasterfan

The interesting thing is that Americans foolishly voted in favor of a war 10 years ago, on a mere assumption that there were WMDs, which proved false. Today, we actually have proof of chemical weapons, and those weapons were ACTUALLY USED. In other words, we actually have a reason to react this time, yet we are reluctant to do anything. In 2002, fear alone was enough reason for to support a war.

It's interesting that most of the lessons we have learned from George W.Bush go in the "mistakes we want to avoid in the future" column.

Huron_1969

Learning from our mistakes is a valuable human trait and a sign of maturity. Let's hope all of our leaders embrace that

"ignorance is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result" Albert Einstein

Contango

Re: "Learning from our mistakes is a valuable human trait and a sign of maturity."

“History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” ― Mark Twain.

Technology changes, human nature - never.

Not unlike the moronic Progressives, who naively believe that they can perfect a kinder-gentler form of communism.

Contango

Re: "on a mere assumption that there were WMDs, which proved false."

Are you caught in a mental feedback loop?

EVERY intelligence agency in the world believed that Iraq had WMD.

Saddam WANTED the world to believe that he had WMD.

Georges Sada, former Iraqi National Security Advisor and retired general officer of the Iraqi Air Force wrote that the WMD was moved to Syria.

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/...

Lastly, Libya disposed of their WMD due to the U.S. actions in Iraq.

NOW, flip to Sept. 2013: Why are you NOT supporting your Pres?

4shizzle

The Bush administration knew the truth - they just played on fears and assumptions.

Contango

"...and the truth was?"

So you're supporting Pres. Obama attacking Syria in order to help find the Iraqi WMD?

Contango

Re: "they just played on fears and assumptions."

How is THAT any 'different' than the arguments being made by the Obama admin. for military intervention in Syria?

Pres. Obama says that it's a matter of U.S. national security. How so?

Come on, you know that you wanna support YOUR prez – make the case.

4shizzle

Wasn't it about "mushroom clouds"?
Re-writers have been talking about gas.
Depends upon who you talk to about who's poison gas it is.
Read the news lately?
http://news.yahoo.com/eu-syria-g...

Contango

Re: "Wasn't it about 'mushroom clouds'?"

You tell me.

Again: Aren't Pres. Obama arguments based on "fears and assumptions"?

4shizzle

I don't call you "Clowntango" for nothing.

You like talking a lot, don't you ?

Contango

Re: "I don't..."

Off-topic.

Again: Come on, you know that you wanna support YOUR prez – make the case.

4shizzle

"Again: Come on, you know that you wanna support YOUR prez – make the case"

Off - topic.

Contango

Re: "Off - topic."

Pres. Obama asking for Congressional support for military intervention in Syria ain't the topic?

Where do you stand on the issue?

deertracker

@coaster
Great point!

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