Newspaper article MinnPost.com

From Minnesota and beyond, Syria Vote Divides Lawmakers -- but Not like They're Used To

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

From Minnesota and beyond, Syria Vote Divides Lawmakers -- but Not like They're Used To

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Since President Obama said he'd ask Congress to authorize a military strike in Syria, one thing has been clear: Deciding to attack another country is proving a far more nuanced decision than so many others lawmakers make.

The traditional red-versus-blue division that has paralyzed Congress (and made predicting many votes' outcomes so easy) is breaking down in front of a Syria resolution--at this point, lawmakers, from Minnesota and beyond, deciding to either back Obama's attack plan or oppose it with little consideration of party label.

To be sure, most Republicans who have taken an early position a Syria attack resolution are opposing it, according to early, informal media whip counts. But House GOP leadership backs Obama's plan, and they'll bring a chunk of votes along with them. Meanwhile, Democrats seem split.

In other words, for once Congress is taking up something seemingly beyond partisanship.

When it comes to use-of-force bills, that hasn't always been the case. University of Minnesota Humphrey School professor Brian Atwood said most times Congress is asked to authorize military force, one of two things have happened: Either lawmakers vote along party lines (most Democrats opposed resolutions authorizing George H.W. Bush's Gulf War plans, for example) or they vote together to back military action (more than half of Senate Democrats backed President George W. Bush's Iraq War authorization, though he had some international support backing him up).

"It's usually right-left lines," Atwood said. "This is a really strange Congress."

Divisions within Minnesota delegation

Not only are lawmakers intermingling, but they're doing it for a host of different reasons.

Take Minnesota's congressional delegation. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann opposes intervention in Syria because she sees no clear U.S. ally there. "President Obama has not demonstrated a vital American national security interest in the conflict in Syria or a clear strategy outlining what the use of force would accomplish," she said Sunday.

But she's supported American involvement in the Middle East before; her Syria ally, Democrat Rick Nolan, has long opposed any so- called "wars of choice."

Obama's Syria plans have two big backers: Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor endorsed military intervention on Tuesday, though Boehner's office said Syria will be a "conscience vote" for members, and leadership won't whip support; that's up to the White House.

And, indeed, many Republicans will need some convincing. When Republicans split, it is usually along Tea Party vs. "the establishment" lines, but that's not necessarily happening within the Minnesota delegation, yet. Those who have taken a stance on Syria so far tend to oppose it, Tea Party or not. …

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