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

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason Reid2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again Panel: How Biden's gaffes could cost him against Trump 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 McCainFighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate The Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire 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 CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' 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 GrahamGraham warns Trump on Taliban deal in Afghanistan: Learn from 'Obama's mistakes' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan MORE (S.C.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCook Political Report moves Susan Collins Senate race to 'toss up' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (Maine), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissHoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Republicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' Ex-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances MORE (Ga.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteTrump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race MORE (N.H.), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerThe 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Landmark US-Russia arms control treaty poised for final blow GOP senator introduces bill banning 'addictive' social media features 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 GrassleyGOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation Trump health official: Controversial drug pricing move is 'top priority' Environmental advocates should take another look at biofuels 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 BluntEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity GOP group targets McConnell over election security bills in new ad Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown 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 IsaksonGeorgia senator discharged from hospital after fall Georgia senator hospitalized after fall Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown MORE (R-Ga.), who had earlier been a “yes” vote, is now planning to vote “no.”

Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray Coats11 Essential reads you missed this week Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move Hillicon Valley: Deepfakes pose 2020 test for media | States beg Congress for more election security funds | Experts worry campaigns falling short on cybersecurity | Trump officials urge reauthorization of NSA surveillance program 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 BoehnerLobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom Rising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief This little engine delivers results for DC children MORE (Ohio) and Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington GOP faces tough battle to become 'party of health care' 737 crisis tests Boeing's clout in Washington MORE (Va.), have endorsed Obama’s call to action, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAre Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report 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 PaulGraham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Rand Paul to 'limit' August activities due to health 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.”