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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reacts as he waits for U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to arrive as he appears at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Not making the case.
A House aide tells Greg Sargent how they plan on getting Democratic votes to pass an authorization for a Syria attack, despite the brutal current whip counts.
Aides believe Members won’t really make up their mind until they see the classified info, which will make a No vote harder.
Curious what classified info would change the calculus of this debate. That Assad really did gas his own people? At this point, it's pretty well stipulated that Assad is a horrible monster, whether or not he gassed his people—100,000 dead and counting testify to that. The problem is devising a solution that actually improves the situation on the ground, and that thorny problem of what a post-Assad Syria might look like.
Many members were not around during the Iraq War vote and have never taken a big, consequential vote on matters of war and peace.
The administration thinks that given their first crack at it, members of Congress will be pushed toward a "yes" vote on war. I'd argue the opposite—the class of 2006 and 2008 were elected in large part based on opposition to war. And most Blue Dog-type Dems were taken out in 2010. So if anything, a "yes" vote from this crowd would be a violation of the very principles that first got them elected.
Aides believe that many of those who say they are leaning No are not necessarily at that point. Aides believe there’s a lot of pressure on Dems — given the unpopularity of strikes with constituents, as reflected in the polls, and given some of the pressure being directed to offices by liberal groups — to downplay the possibility of a Yes vote later. So aides think the whip counts don’t tell the real story.
This is obviously very possible and makes perfect sense. Except if those legislators think they're getting pressure now, just wait to see what would happen if they vote "yes" after publicly saying they would vote "no". And given the gerrymandered state of the House, where most Democrats represent safe districts, a "yes" vote would give fresh impetus for primary challenges. And seriously, would House Democrats really want to face potential primaries for this?
Dem aides think they can get the numbers they need even if around 60 progressive Dems prove ungettable.
The math says they are correct—if Dems outside the progressive caucus vote "yes", the votes could be there for passage. So far, the whip count doesn't suggest that, but a whip count is not a final count. Arms can be twisted.

Ultimately, the pro-war Dem strategy appears to be "scare people into submission with a classified briefing, then hope the 'no' votes switch." It's not a bad approach, because they sure aren't winning in the court of public opinion, the law or the facts.

Originally posted to kos on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 10:01 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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