113th Congress in Washington.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Reacting to US President Barack Obama’s Saturday announcement to
ask Congress for authorization on the use of force against Syria, a shocked
Washington was able to agree on one point: It’s a risky move.
Congress have been scattered on Syria for months, not unlike the president, who
has shied away from the conflict for more than two years. But where defined and
consistent policy camps exist, conventional party lines do not
Humanitarian interventionists are represented in both the far left
of the Democratic Party and what remains of the hawkish Republican
Some Democrats, too, agree with Republican counterparts
that the president’s plan for action in Syria has no clear strategic objectives.
Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner said he does not plan on
reconvening the chamber early from its summer recess, nor would he help whip
votes in support of the president’s resolution.
Even with an organized
effort to bring the Republican party into agreement, Boehner has struggled to
enforce a party line on some basic, uncontroversial bills. Before the Syrian
crisis landed on Congress’s doorstep, one wing of the Republican Party was
threatening to attempt a government shutdown in the next two weeks.
wing consists of conservatives with a libertarian streak, keen on limiting
spending – even if that means slashing the military budget.
defense spending is no longer taboo in Washington, and Pentagon officials are
aware of the shift. The effects of sequestration on the military, weighed
against the costs of any operation in Syria, are sure to factor into the coming
Overlapping with those party members are
isolationist Republicans strongly against American tax dollars being spent on
foreign aid or expensive military campaigns.
While Congress may find
itself in a rare moment on the world stage, many of its members will not care
about international opinion. Some have primaries fast approaching in 2014, and
they will be averse to the risk of voting to authorize yet another dangerous
endeavor in the Middle East.
Establishment Republicans are calling for a
demonstration of American strength and resolve. These members have consistently
reminded the president of the “red line” he had set out in front of Syria’s
President Bashar Assad on the use of chemical weapons, and they will now be
challenged to make that red line their own.
The White House will likely
gain a majority of House Democrats with the help of minority leader Nancy
Pelosi, who has come out strongly in favor of military action. House Republicans
will likely try to amend the resolution to tailor its reach. Its current
language, written by the White House, leaves open the possibility of strikes
against Syria beyond a days-long campaign.