Seeking votes, Reid compares Syria to Hitler’s gas chambers

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE (D-Nev.) faces a daunting test of his relationships with Republicans, as Democratic defections could require 16 or more GOP votes to pass a Syria resolution in the chamber.

Reid pulled out the stops on the Senate floor Monday, where he compared gas attacks linked to Syrian President Bashar Assad to Adolf Hitler’s methodical extermination of Europe’s Jews.

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“Millions and millions of civilians and prisoners of war were murdered by gas in Nazi death camps, Treblinka, Auschwitz. ‘Never again,’ swore the world. ‘Never again would we permit the use of these poisonous weapons of war,’ ” he said on the Senate floor.

Reid warned the nation would be held morally responsible for failing to act, citing an inscription on the wall of the Holocaust Memorial Museum 14 blocks away from the Capitol.

“It’s on the wall. It’s from ‘Dante’s Inferno,’ ” he said. 

“ ‘The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.’ ”

Reid ratcheted up the rhetoric on the Syria resolution ahead of what Senate aides predict will be a very close vote.  

According to The Hill’s Whip List that is available online, 26 senators will support the president or are leaning “yes.” Twenty-five senators are opposed or leaning “no,” including 18 Republicans. Forty-nine senators are undecided.

The numbers in the House are far grimmer for President Obama: 32 in the “Yes/Leaning Yes” column and 182 in the “No/Leaning No” column.

There is a chance there might not be a vote in the wake of Syria’s warming to a diplomatic solution where the Assad government would fork over its chemical weapons. The Obama administration is reviewing that option closely.

Reid announced late Monday he would hold off scheduling a vote on a procedural motion expected Wednesday.

The president will join Senate Democrats and Republicans at their respective weekly lunch meetings on Tuesday to argue personally for authorization to attack Syria.

The charm offensive could become counterproductive in the GOP Conference, however, because Republicans have instinctively opposed Obama’s initiatives throughout his presidency. He kept his distance from immigration reform legislation earlier this year for fear of weighing it down with political baggage.

But Obama must take up the task of lobbying Senate Republicans because a strong champion for the use-of-force resolution has yet to emerge in their conference.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Trump mocks McCain at Nevada rally Don’t disrespect McCain by torpedoing his clean National Defense Authorization Act MORE (R-Ariz.), usually the dominant proponent for a muscular U.S. foreign policy, has expressed qualms about the restricted scope of the resolution.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCorker: 'I think there's a jailbreak brewing' in opposition to Trump tariffs GOP scrambles to regain fiscal credibility with House budget On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending MORE (Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who helped craft the resolution, is not making a full-on push for its passage. Along with other GOP leaders, he says it’s up to Obama to make a compelling case when the president meets with lawmakers and addresses the nation. Corker believes Obama made a tactical error by failing to identify and arm moderate elements of Syrian opposition forces earlier this year.

Obama and Vice President Biden dined with GOP Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate panel advances three spending bills Trump says he will sign executive order to end family separations Trump backs narrow bill halting family separations: official MORE (S.C.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt Skyrocketing insulin prices provoke new outrage MORE (Maine), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (Ga.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteHeitkamp ad highlights record as Senate race heats up Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post The Hill's Morning Report: Koch Network re-evaluating midterm strategy amid frustrations with GOP MORE (N.H.), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerErnst, Fischer to square off for leadership post McConnell will ask Cornyn to stay on GOP leadership team Graham downplays need for bill reining in Trump on tariffs after White House meeting MORE (Neb.) and Corker on Sunday to begin the persuasion campaign. Of that group Ayotte, Collins and Fischer are undecided.

A senior GOP aide said the dinner yielded little progress, and predicted Obama would face strong skepticism at both lunches on Tuesday.

“The president’s resolution is headed for rough waters in the Senate. ... And his dinner with Republicans didn’t seem to improve his position.”

Political momentum behind the resolution has slowed as Senate offices receive a flood of constituent calls opposing military intervention in Syria. One undecided Democratic senator said calls opposing action have outnumbered calls in favor by a 9-to-1 ratio.

Ayotte, a close ally of McCain and one of the Senate’s most outspoken defense hawks, said Monday she is now undecided about whether to support the Syria resolution. The Hill’s whip list had previously reported her as “leaning yes.”

Republican senators are not inclined to help Reid carry the president’s water because they view him as one of the most partisan majority leaders of the past 50 years.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Senate Dems call for Judiciary hearing on Trump's 'zero tolerance' Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt MORE (R-Iowa), one of the chamber’s deal-

makers, strongly criticized Reid’s leadership style in an interview earlier this year.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post Facebook gives 500 pages of answers to lawmakers' data privacy questions MORE (Mo.), who is widely viewed as a pragmatic member of the Senate GOP leadership, on Monday announced he would oppose the resolution.

“After careful consideration and a number of briefings on this topic, I believe this strategy and the unknown response it may provoke are the wrong thing to do, and I will not support the resolution the President has asked for,” he said.

Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs Overnight Finance: Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority | McConnell calls it 'exercise in futility' | Kudlow warns WTO won't dictate policy | Mulvaney feud with consumer advocates deepens MORE (R-Ga.), who had earlier been a “yes” vote, is now planning to vote “no.”

Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsGOP senator places hold on Trump counterintelligence nominee Civil liberties groups press Trump administration on NSA call record collection Trump’s ‘Syraqistan’ strategy is a success — and a failure MORE (R-Ind.), who has a history of working with Democrats, said Monday he is highly skeptical of the call for military strikes.

He argued a limited strike could embolden Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“If an attack is ineffective in altering Assad’s behavior or fortune, will it not encourage Iran in pursuing its own weapons program?” he said.

While the top two Republican leaders in the House, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer top Treasury official to head private equity group GOP strategist Steve Schmidt denounces party, will vote for Democrats Zeal, this time from the center MORE (Ohio) and Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election Scalise allies upset over Ryan blindside on McCarthy endorsement MORE (Va.), have endorsed Obama’s call to action, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive things to know about efforts to repeal Obama's water rule Mulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation Senate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays MORE (Ky.) has remained on the fence.

If McConnell, who is up for reelection, voices his opposition after the Senate GOP lunch Tuesday, it would make Reid’s quest for GOP votes that much harder. 

The political fallout from Senate defeat of the Syria resolution could also be compounded by the passage of an amendment sponsored by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senators call for probe of federal grants on climate change Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Key ObamaCare groups in limbo | Opioids sending thousands of kids into foster care | House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for opioid treatments US watchdog: 'We failed' to stem Afghan opium production MORE (R-Ky.) requiring the president to adhere to Congress’s decision.

Paul plans to file an amendment stating that the authority to use force resides in the Congress and can be transferred to the president only through legislation.

Reid has not said whether he will grant Paul a vote on the amendment, which could garner a tally reflecting growing opposition to the use-of-force resolution. 

Obama has said he has the power to order military action against Syria, regardless of how Congress votes.

With GOP resistance stiffening, Reid could turn his focus back on wavering Democrats.

On Monday he argued that colleagues should at least vote this week to end debate on the motion to proceed to the resolution.

“Regardless of where senators stand on the merits of this issue, all should agree that we should have this debate,” he said. “I hope that all senators will support proceeding to this measure.”