Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidVoters need to feel the benefit, not just hear the message Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama Mellman: Are independents really so independent? 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.
“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 McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid 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 CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her 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 emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (S.C.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure MORE (Maine), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissFormer Georgia Sen. Max Cleland dies at 79 Effective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Live coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs MORE (Ga.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteSununu setback leaves GOP scrambling in New Hampshire The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP dealt 2022 blow, stares down Trump-era troubles Sununu exit underscores uncertain GOP path to gain Senate majority MORE (N.H.), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerOvernight Defense & National Security — A new plan to treat Marines 'like human beings' Republicans press Milley over perceived progressive military agenda Senate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Iowa Democrat drops bid to challenge Grassley after death of nephew Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case 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 BluntRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead It's time for Congress to guarantee Medigap Health Insurance for vulnerable Americans with kidney disease 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 IsaksonJohnny IsaksonHerschel Walker calls off fundraiser with woman who had swastika in Twitter profile Georgia reporter says state will 'continue to be a premier battleground' Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms MORE (R-Ga.), who had earlier been a “yes” vote, is now planning to vote “no.”
Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsAn independent commission should review our National Defense Strategy Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race 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 BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE (Ohio) and Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorRepublicans eager to take on Spanberger in Virginia Virginia emerging as ground zero in battle for House majority McAuliffe's loss exposes deepening Democratic rift MORE (Va.), have endorsed Obama’s call to action, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears 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 PaulCotton swipes at Fauci: 'These bureaucrats think that they are the science' Paul, Cruz fire back after Fauci says criticism of him is 'dangerous' No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline 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.”