Obama’s Real Syria Problem: Divided Democrats
Policy + Politics

Obama’s Real Syria Problem: Divided Democrats

REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

President Obama has blamed House Republicans for many things – but this time he can’t blame them for the stumble on Syria

Congressional Democrats are among the harshest critics of the resolution Obama has put before Capitol Hill to approve the bombing of Syria after the use of chemical weapons by its President Bashar al-Assad in that nation’s civil war.

When Obama won past showdowns with Congress on the fiscal cliff and the Affordable Care Act, his victories depended on a strong Democratic foundation and GOP defections. But in the case of Syria, the president is fighting against sentiments within his own party, a faction he will need to appease in his speech Tuesday before Congress.


Democrats such as Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) claim an airstrike against Assad would fail to produce any positive results.

“It’s not going to do any good. It’s not going to change the regime,” Grayson told PBS News Hour.  “It’s not going to end the civil war. It’s not even going to prevent a new strike and use of chemical warfare.” 

That sentiment has been echoed by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK), and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), among others.

“I believe the current Senate resolution falls short because it calls for military action in Syria without carefully looking at diplomatic or alternative solutions,” Heitkamp said Monday in a statement. “I strongly believe we need the entire world, not just America, to prevent and deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria, or anywhere else on the globe.”

Heitkamp said she is working on an alternative to Obama’s resolution with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

According to a “whip count” by The Washington Post, 66 House Democrats oppose the resolution or are leaning toward “no.” Another 115 are undecided. Just 26 House Democrats support the measure. In the Senate, almost 70 percent of the Democratic caucus is against the resolution or undecided.


Both House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) support Obama’s resolution – although, as usual, the president has not drawn much Republican support.

But this time, Obama lacks a united group of Democrats to carry the bill through Congress.

A poll released Monday by CNN found that 59 percent of Americans are against the bombing, though the vast majority of them believe the Assad regime did kill 1,400 of its citizens in a chemical weapons attack.

The poll revealed Democrats are split on the issue. Fifty-six percent support the resolution, but only 45 percent of self-declared “liberals” do.