Congressional aides in both parties tell me that the chances of President Obama winning House approval for military action in Syria are so bad they actually doubt the House would ultimately vote on it if failure seemed certain.
Two new whip counts of House members by ABC News and the liberal Firedoglake web site show a majority of House members firmly or leaning against intervention. The Washington Post’s more conservative count stands at 204 “no” votes, only 13 short of the majority needed to kill the president’s request.
President Obama’s aides say he will begin lobbying Congress personally after he returns from the G-20 summit in Russia late tonight. But his troops have been oddly nonchalant about building support. Organizing for America, the Obama political action group, has been silent and hasn’t communicated at all with its millions of e-mail subscribers about putting pressure on Congress. The White House’s legislative-affairs office has talked with only about 30 percent of House members so far — and some of those contacts are two weeks old.
“I just don’t believe that if defeat is certain, the House leadership will want to see a president utterly humiliated on the House floor in a public vote,” one top aide to the Republican leadership told me. Should the full Senate vote to approve an attack on Syria — as still appears somewhat likely — the battle would shift to the House. “An attempt would be made to let the whole thing go away. I don’t think it would be done to give the GOP any extra leverage in debt-ceiling or budget negotiations — Obama isn’t the grateful type — but simply because the weakness it would demonstrate wouldn’t be good for the country,” the aide told me.