Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

20 House Members to Watch on Syria

As the White House and congressional leaders woo votes to authorize military intervention in Syria, certain lawmakers serve as important bellwethers — and potentially critical components — to the math of 218.

Military action in Syria is, ultimately, a policy vote. But it is also, inescapably, a political one.

Voting against Syria could forever mar a Republican as soft on defense, just as voting for it could brand a Democrat a war hawk. And how members vote could play roles in leadership elections down the line. Elections could be won or lost and legacies built or dashed based on this vote — and lawmakers know it.

There are many votes that could be insightful gauges: Kosovo, Libya, perhaps even the fiscal cliff.

But the last time the White House and Republican and Democratic leadership were on the same side of a key vote was the National Security Agency amendment from Michigan Republican Justin Amash. The NSA amendment pitted libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats against establishment lawmakers concerned with national security. It came within seven votes of adoption.

It was also the first time a majority of Democrats sided against President Barack Obama on a national security issue. And, as one Democratic aide put it, Democrats learned that “the sky won’t fall” if they vote against Obama.

Another way to handicap the vote is by looking at individual legislators.

These 20 so-far-undecided House lawmakers are ones to watch:


Kevin McCarthy of California

The No. 3 Republican in the House has yet to decide if he’ll join Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. He probably will, but his reluctance already indicates just how tough a vote this could be. And the last thing Boehner and Obama need is the guy in charge of counting votes not on the team.

Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin

Ryan, the proverbial GOP thought-leader, carries a great deal of weight in the House. Like McCarthy, he will probably side with leadership. But this vote also will be one of the defining ones heading into the 2016 presidential race, should he make a run.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington

The No. 4 Republican still hasn’t said which way she is leaning, but if she sided against Boehner and Cantor, it would be significant.

Her staff says she is “carefully considering” intervention and she is “awaiting final legislative text,” so she is unlikely to announce her position soon. McMorris Rodgers will likely have a strong sense of how Republicans are leaning when she makes up her mind.

Tom Price of Georgia

Price says he is still undecided, but whichever side he comes down on could enjoy a big boost. Price is well-respected in the Republican ranks, and many Southern Republicans look to him for guidance.

Bill Huizenga of Michigan

Huizenga is a middle-of-the-road Republican who doesn’t like to make trouble. But he has just enough of an independent streak to break from Republican leadership. On the Amash NSA amendment, Huizenga was undecided up to the last moment. He voted for the amendment, but multiple sources say he was willing to flip if leadership needed him.

Cory Gardner of Colorado

The sophomore Republican has made a name for himself as a conservative to watch. Gardner is likely torn on the issue of Syria. He wants to please leadership, and he wants to please his young libertarian-leaning friends. He doesn’t want to be soft on defense, but he doesn’t want to start a war. His dilemma is a lot like the dilemma facing other Republicans.

Jim Jordan of Ohio

When conservatives want to know where conservatives stand on an issue, they often look to Jordan — the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

Scott Rigell of Virginia

Rigell’s prominence rose when he led the charge to get President Barack Obama to go through Congress for authorization of Syria. Now that Obama has gone that route, Rigell seems inclined to vote no, but if he were to back Obama, that could prove significant.

Ann Wagner of Missouri

Wagner is a freshman to watch in general. The ambitious Republican is eager to please leadership, but she is also trying to maintain her conservative credentials among her young colleagues. She is one member constantly in communication with her colleagues. If the GOP mood swings against Syria, Wagner will pick up on it.

Tom Cole of Oklahoma

Cole — a close Boehner ally — seems to be leaning against intervention in Syria but could still go the other way. Cole is suspicious of any bombing campaign that doesn’t end with the United States securing chemical weapons.


James E. Clyburn of South Carolina

The No. 3 Democrat in the House is not afraid to vote against leadership and the White House. He did just that when he recently voted for the Amash NSA amendment. But the former Democratic whip and former Congressional Black Caucus chairman has in the past been inclined to support the president and could prove key in getting Obama’s base behind him — or not.

Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio

The leader of the CBC is a key vote. She, Clyburn and Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., a former and unofficial leader of the CBC, could help sway the outcome. They face a substantial dilemma: oppose the war or oppose the president.

Xavier Becerra of California

The House Democratic Caucus chairman told CQ Roll Call over the weekend that this was a vote of conscience. So if Becerra’s conscience is leaning one way or another, that could be a good indication of the overall direction of the Democratic conscience. Becerra will probably support intervention, but if he doesn’t, it would be a bad sign for Democratic leadership.

Joseph Crowley of New York

The vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus has yet to state where he stands, but if he comes out against striking Syria, many Democrats will notice. Crowley defied the White House to back the Amash NSA amendment.

Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut

DeLauro is a close Pelosi ally. She’s also a liberal conscience who isn’t afraid to break from leadership.

Jan Schakowsky of Illinois

Schakowsky is another one of Pelosi’s best friends — and she, too, is undecided. Now in her eighth term, she’s been in the House long enough to have seen the consequences of authorizing military force. Schakowsky is also on the Intelligence Committee. If Schakowsky votes no, other members might see it as a sign that the intelligence on Syria is not compelling.

Jim Himes of Connecticut

Another member of the Intelligence Committee, Himes can speak forcefully and convincingly on Syria. He seems likely to vote against intervention, but if he comes out for striking Syria, Democrats will listen.

Himes, like many Democrats, faces his own dilemma. He came to Congress in 2008 after a war-weary public ushered in a Democratic majority. But Himes is also a fan of Obama. He said recently it “pains” him to oppose the president on such a key issue as Syria. If Himes can do it, other Democrats could follow.

Jared Polis of Colorado

Polis seems open to the idea of a limited strike “if we have the ability to do it, without adversely affecting our security.” But Polis is a member whose position will likely depend on the details of the resolution. If he is convinced by an argument that, for example, a resolution is the best way to restrain the president’s use of force, Polis could be an important ally.

John B. Larson of Connecticut

The former chairman of the House Democratic Caucus seems open to backing a strike as long as it doesn’t mean “boots on the ground.” Once again, the text of the resolution and the mood of the caucus will matter. Whichever way he is leaning is a good indication where other Democrats are headed, too.

Zoe Lofgren of California

Lofgren calls herself a “skeptic,” but she says she will give the question “the kind of thorough consideration that such a question deserves.” Lofgren is known to concern herself with the details, and she was elected to Congress during 1994’s Republican wave. If she signs off, other Democrats may trust her judgment.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

  • scientist5

    Stay out of Syria. Syria is a side show – Iran is the problem. Being an old Middle East/No. African hand since 1949, I can assure you that there is no side to take in this debacle, The stand taken by various Arab countries and Turkey defy explanation. The attitudes and support issues are so complex and varied that there is no right side. Any further move on our part is likely to light a match to a powder keg and give rise to a catastrophic Middle East war.
    The once popular WWII song kind of explains it all – “Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear To Tread”

  • Eli Dumitru

    Instead of saying “20 House Members to Watch on Syria”, these are 20 House Members to WRITE and CALL to tell them NO to an attack on Syria. This is our government. If everyone who is against the war would just get up and call or write, this war would be stopped before it starts. Let’s do it!

  • bittman

    I must have been asleep when Obama asked Congress to vote on Libya.
    I guess 350 million Americans were asleep with me because Obama’s decisions regarding Libya were among his many unilateral, Imperial Presidency decisions.

    • Mojojojo
    • Rob_Chapman

      Mr. Bittman your assertion that POTUS acted unilaterally on Libya is incorrect on three points, US unilateralism, the requirement for Congressional approval and comparability of Syria and Libya.
      The USA took action in Libya as part of wider Western Coaltion. This is correctly and accurately termed MULTI-Lateralism.

      POTUS could argue on Syria, as he did on Libya that he has the authority to act without Congressional approval in such matters.

      Libya and Syria are not comparable situations for many reasons from the nature of governments in each place, to the level and type of international action each regime engaged in, and perhaps most importantly their respective weights in balancing geo-political considerations.

      Apparently, the White House believes that the public temper requires a Congressional debate on Syrian action.

      One can only hope the Congress rises to the occasion and that the House shows more backbone than the Senate which appears about to be supinely buffaloed into unwise action by its hawkish members.

      • bittman

        I am more of a strict Constitutionalist — according to the Federalist Papers, the intent of the Founding Fathers was to give Congress the power to decide whether our nation goes to war–UNLESS the country is being attacked. However, I agree with you that the Presidents have pushed and greatly expanded the Presidential power in this area…but that doesn’t mean we should continue to accept it irregardless of which party is in the White House. I believe we need to go back to the Founding Father’s original intention.

        I think Putin’s statement today that Russia will respond militarily in defense of Syria if it is attacked should change a lot of Congressional minds and votes. Who wants to risk WW III to protect Obama’s image?

  • Defend Liberty

    The 18 tendencies imported by Stuart Chase included a centralized government with an executive arm growing at the expense of the others.

  • OldmanRick

    Let the Arab nations resolve this Syrian issue. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and a host of smaller Arab nations can take on Assad and Iran to end this debacle. It’s time they invested some of their blood and treasure in the fight. They could also eliminate the Al Qaeda components reeking havoc throughout the local area. Whoops, my bad. Seems Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, and potentially Pakistan donate to the Al Qaeda cause.
    Time to step back and let the Arab world take care of itself. Too many westerners have died trying to resolve their bickering and squabbling. However, if congress wishes to give the brat a go on bombing Syria, congress and the administration should be the first boots on the ground.

    • Rob_Chapman

      Rick, thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      But please explain for me what US interests are served by toppling Assad?

      Please consider the developments in Egypt, or in any other Muslim country and please explain what we are gaining with our support of the Syrian insurgency.

      • OldmanRick

        Honestly? In that case there are no interests other than a few political ones that will save face for the brat and demonstrate to the world that he still has a pair and is not a girly man hiding behind the skirts of Valerie Jarrett.
        However, if rumor becomes fact that the brat is a friend of the MB, he is and will aid them on their quest to establish control over the middle east and the world. That may sound far fetched, but look around what has happened in Europe and is happening bit by bit in the US, Canada, and throughout Central and South America.

        • Rob_Chapman

          Rick, please disregard my remark regarding your thoughtfulness.

          Your clearly are arrested in adolesence and not capable of discussing matters seriously.

          Live and be well.

          • OldmanRick

            Rob, you asked. Honestly there are no interests served by toppling Assad other than political ones. It would more than likely become another Libya.
            Now Egypt is another story. It controls the Suez canal which has a tremendous economic influence throughout Europe for both oil products and goods from Asia and the Middle east. Yet, Europe should be the one most concerned and responsible for its safe and continued operation since that is a most important life line to the European economy and way of life.
            The US has assumed the role of world police. That is wrong. As such, we are seen as bullies rather than as friends. If one wishes to win the hearts and minds, one has to supply people not only with what they need most to survive, but also with some of the finer things in life. That means the ability to supply quality goods and services at a reasonable price.

          • Rob_Chapman

            Rick, I asked and you answered.

            The next question to ask, if the US has no interest in overthrowing Assad, why are we backing the Syrian militias who clearly are a much worse group of thugs than the people running Syria now?

          • OldmanRick

            OK, here goes. In a nut shell Syria is quite important both militarily and economically.

            Militarily speaking Syria has year around warm water ports for the Russian fleet and Iranian Navy which needs some in the Med. region. It also has military air bases for both Russian bombers and fighters that would allow Russia to effectively control the Oil barons of the Middle East.

            Economically those same ports have rail access from Iraq and Iran which can be used to ship products to Europe without having to use the Suez canal and visa versa. Also with stability in Iraq, Syria, etc. oil and natural gas lines can be constructed directly to the Syrian ports for loading aboard ship to Europe.

            Egypt also has the Nile.

          • Rob_Chapman

            Yert during the whole Cold War and into the current period of history, Syria and Russia have been closely alligned and Russia has never been able to use Syria as a stepping stone to mid east dominance…..

            Want to try something else?

          • OldmanRick

            The cold war ended and Russia had an economic fail. They are allies now; and, if Putin get his way, there will even be stronger ties. However, the fly in the ointment is Iran. It also desires control of the entire Middle East and is a strong ally of Assad.
            Eventually, If the world is patient, Russia and Iran will square off. Seems Putin does not like terrorists or jihadists and Iran seems to be the proud sponsor of both. Even China may have a part to play since it is having its own problems with jihadists.
            Take into account that Russia had a complete economic fail. It is recovering rapidly, and with KGB Putin at the helm it will again try to exert its influence throughout the world. What is currently happening in Syria is a start.

          • Rob_Chapman

            Rick, I am very curious about how you developed your views.

            You are giving out the party line like you believe it, how did you come to be such a good doobee?

          • OldmanRick

            Crazy as it may sound, after studying history, particularly that related to war, I came to the above conclusions. My need to understand why we ever became involved in Vietnam started me on that particular journey.

            BTW, I do not profess to be anything other than a conservative since both repugnuts and jackasses seem not to care much about anything other than holding on to their cushy chairs, keeping their rice bowls full, and drawing a good paycheck for doing nothing more than occupying space and shilling for special interest groups.

          • Rob_Chapman

            Crazy as it may sound, Rick, I am going to suggest you go back and add critical thinking to your reading and study habits.

            Allowing yourself to get sucked into the party line after copious reading suggests you haven”t developed your ctitical thinking facilities very well.

          • OldmanRick

            Oh but I have and from that “copious reading” I have discovered that over the years the only war we entered which actually threatened the US besides the Civil war and the War of Independence was WWII.

            BTW, My father did teach me to believe nothing of what I heard, half of what I saw, and I would have it about half right. Now that is critical thinking. Maybe you should try it rather than dissing the conclusions of others. It is also suggested that you might wish to take a trip through history beginning with the Romans which we do seem to be imitating.

          • Rob_Chapman

            You present sloppy thinking like making allusions to the Romans and then think you are being dissed when someone says hold on, you are bull shitting instead of thinking.

            Instead, Rick, you are using all your ammo to back your partisan position.

            We should be looking for shared ground and workable solutions, not demonstrating our ideological purity.

            Your side in this Rick is what is holding up progress in America on everything from solving the deficit to keeping American soldiers from being killed and killing needlessly in Syria.

          • OldmanRick

            You are great with generalities, but lacking on specifics. As to the Romans and The US, the similarities are incredible with respect to what led to the down fall of the Roman Republic and what is happening within our own. It does seem that we do not learn from the lessons of history and go about repeating the same mistakes.

            As to “bull shitting”, what constitutes such action? It would seem from this conversation that you are the one spreading the bull much more so than I.


            Please do enlighten me. Who exactly are the “big names” in the conservative movement? I surely haven’t seen any lately.

            “Your side in this Rick is what is holding up progress in America on everything from solving the deficit to keeping American soldiers from being killed and killing needlessly in Syria.”
            My side? Where is my side? Your remark places you directly in the liberal dim pocket by blaming my side for the problems within the US. Be advised that our current problems stem from voters not taking the time to vet all candidates prior to voting them into office. We are to blame, each and every one of us for our crummy elected officials from township to national office. We have allowed public service to become a profession when it was designed to be a short term service for Americans. After serving for a term or two, they then returned home to their real jobs in the private sector.
            Yep, if you want to blame anyone for our current mess blame the American voters for their laziness and gullibility.

          • Rob_Chapman

            are great with generalities, but lacking on specifics. As to the Romans and The
            US, the similarities are incredible with respect to what led to the down fall
            of the Roman Republic and what is happening within our own. It does seem that
            we do not learn from the lessons of history and go about repeating the same
            Good example of your bull shitting Rick. You accuse me of using glittering generalities and then come out with that statement asserting unspecified obvious similarities between the US and the Roman Republic.

            Why not just admit, you are a pedantic old fart flapping his gums far too long.

            BTW, what US interests are stake in Syria, you have yet to give a credible or informed answer on that.

          • OldmanRick

            We have no interests at stake in Syria. If you read an earlier post you would not have to again ask.

            Seems like you are experiencing memory loss. That does seem to be a common malady among dims.

            Also you have not disproven or offered argument to correct or disprove any of my previous posts except with banality.

            Have a wonderful day.

          • Rob_Chapman

            Rick, you vacillated between stating that we have no interest in Syria and stating it was important because it served as a base for the Russians, backing off again and then stating the Iranian connection made Syria a country in which the US has security stakes.
            My difficulty in following this conversation is not memory loss but your shifting positions.

            You have yet to make an argument, and apparently don’t know the meaning of the word banality.

            Good day to you too,

            Oh you might consider a name change from old man Rick to dim Rick and stop insulting the aged with your unwillingness or inability to make coherent statements.

  • Socialism is Organized Evil

    Where common morals and language are used, our social interactions become more predictable and the case for centralized control is weakened.

  • Rob_Chapman

    If POTUS proposed the following measures:

    *a diplomatic initiative to reduce the flow of arms to Syria and to eliminate the further delivery of offensive weapons there;

    *increased humanitarian aid to the refugees and victims of the Civil War;

    *naval and air interdiction of ships and aircraft tracked with arms shipments bound for Syria;

    *action to bring the perpetrators of atrocities- FROM BOTH SIDES- to justice; and

    *a robust plan to control the militia forces and prevent counter atrocities in their areas, I would not only approve but advocate for it.

    Instead POTUS supports a Senate resolution that squanders US power and prestige with retaliatory strikes that are highly hypocritical morally, ineffective militarily and which are just plain embarrassing.

    The US House of Representatives now has the opportunity to put America on the right track on a major foreign policy intitative or to allow the mad bombers in the US Senate to continue their domination of the debate.

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