Anguish over Syria weighs heavily in Congress

Anguish over Syria weighs heavily in Congress

WASHINGTON - Authorization for President Barack Obama to strike Syria would likely fail in Congress if the vote were today, as skeptical lawmakers consider heeding war-weary constituents who firmly oppose military intervention.

Members of Congress, many of whom are loathe to repeat the quagmire that was Iraq, face mounting pressure in their home districts where they fear a backlash at the polls, particularly in party primary votes next year.

Obama's administration has spent the last week intensely lobbying, but it has made little headway amid extraordinary bipartisan divisions over Syria, as lawmakers question military objectives and long-term goals of a limited strike, and worry about expansion of regional instability as a result.

They have heard the president's call for action, and many have attended briefings and weighed classified evidence of use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

And despite universal revulsion in Congress for the deadly attacks last month, if the vote to authorize force were held Friday "I have to believe it would be rejected," congressman Kevin Cramer told AFP.

"I think for many, absent of being convinced, 'no' is going to be the answer" on Syria intervention, Cramer said, noting that the opposition cuts across party, geographical and socio-economic lines.

Congressional leadership aides conducting informal vote counts say nearly 80 percent of House Republicans are to some degree opposed to military intervention, while Democratic support is in the low dozens, Politico reported Tuesday.

According to a Washington Post survey, 224 of the current 433 House members were either "no" or "leaning no" on military action as of Friday. A large number, 184, were undecided, with just 25 backing a strike.

The Senate is expected to vote next week on allowing a limited attack, while the House is due to vote within the next two weeks, according to Republican leader Eric Cantor.

Some Obama backers expressed confidence that colleagues on both sides of the aisle will step into line.

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