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September 06, 2013 3:47 PM The House Whip Effort on Syria Is Going Badly for the President

By Ryan Cooper

According to the Washington Post, there are already over 217 votes in the “no” or “leaning no” camp. That’s not final by any means, but it’s an indication of how steep a hill the White House is trying to climb.

Greg Sargent digs into the numbers and finds a developing left-libertarian alliance:

Here’s a way to look at it. I compared the current whip count of Members of Congress who are firm or leaning No votes on Syria right now, with the Members who voted Yes on the recent amendment to end bulk NSA surveillance that corralled a surprising amount of bipartisan support. The vote on that amendment — which was sponsored by GOP Rep. Justin Amash and Dem Rep. John Conyers — was perhaps the clearest demonstration of such a developing alliance we’ve seen.
The overlap is striking. I count nearly four dozen Representatives — from both parties — that are on both lists. In other words, even though it’s early in the whipping process on Syria, we’re already seeing substantial numbers of Members who voted to end NSA surveillance now coming out or leaning against action in Syria.

As Brian Beutler points out, it’s very possible to overstate the importance of preliminary whip counts, and if the administration were left to their own devices they could probably pass this thing eventually, especially given that the leadership of both parties have fallen in line.

But the ferocity of public sentiment is also very important, and right now apparently congressional offices have been deluged with anti-intervention calls and letters. Republican Matt Salmon says the calls are 500 to 2 against, and Democrat Elijah Cummings told Ed Schultz it’s 99 to 1 against.

It’s very hard for House members to stand up against that kind of sustained pressure. During the midst of the financial crisis, with the economy obviously falling to bits, the TARP bailout failed in the House due to a huge public outcry. Of course, in response the Dow fell 778 points and the general panic was enough countervailing pressure to pass it on a second try, but that kind of massive and immediate response is unlikely if the Syria vote fails.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper

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