Eric Davis: Vt. congressional delegation must decide on Syria

The three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation must decide whether to support President Obama’s request that Congress authorize the use of military force against Syria in response to the Assad government’s chemical weapons attack on communities near Damascus. As of Sept. 3, none of the members of the delegation had made a firm statement about how he will vote.
I believe that Sen. Patrick Leahy is the member of the delegation most likely to cast a “yes” vote. Leahy was the only member from Vermont to attend a classified briefing that the administration presented to members of Congress last Sunday. After the briefing, Leahy indicated that he was not ready to vote in favor of the language that had been drafted by the White House, but that congressional staff would work with the administration over the next week to tighten up the wording of the resolution. If the final version of the resolution includes restrictions on the use of American ground forces in Syria, limits the duration of the military action, and makes clear that the object of the attack is to deter future use of chemical weapons rather than regime change in Syria, Leahy is likely to vote in its favor.
I believe that Leahy also feels an obligation, as the senior Democrat in the Senate, to support a president of his own party on a matter as important as this. The endorsement of military action by John Kerry and Joe Biden, two of Leahy’s long-time colleagues in the Senate, also makes it more likely Leahy will vote “yes.” Finally, in his Senate work on foreign policy-related committees, Leahy has shown that he is receptive to the arguments in favor of “humanitarian intervention” made by officials such as National Security Adviser Susan Rice and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has traditionally been more skeptical of military intervention than Leahy, and he will likely require more convincing before he votes to authorize a military strike. Sanders has recognized the inhumanity of the Assad regime’s actions, but he is wary of the consequences of intervention, in terms of entangling the United States in a civil war in Syria. Almost all of Sanders’ strongest supporters in Vermont will oppose military action, and that is a factor Sanders will consider in deciding how to vote. Still, I would not rule out Sanders’ voting “yes,” especially if the opposition in the Senate is led by isolationist Republicans and a “no” vote could be seen as undermining President Obama internationally.
Rep. Peter Welch may be very conflicted on this issue. Welch’s opposition to the Iraq war was one of the things that got him elected to Congress in 2006, and, like Sanders, he is concerned that the administration has not thought through all the consequences, both intended and unintended, of a military strike. Welch will also be contacted by many constituents who want him to vote “no.”
Welch will also hear arguments on the other side in Washington. As a deputy chief whip, he is a member of the House Democratic leadership team. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, whose San Francisco constituency also includes many strong opponents of military action, has been a consistent supporter of intervention, pushing President Obama on the issue. Welch is close to many senior House Democrats who have been persuaded of the case for an attack on Syria, and want to make sure the Democratic minority contributes as many votes as possible toward passage of the resolution in the House. Welch’s decision on the resolution may come down to colleagues versus constituency.
Eric L. Davis is professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College.

Share this story:

More News
Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Op/Ed Uncategorized

Hector Vila: The boundaries of education

There is a wide boundary between the teacher and the student, found most profoundly in col … (read more)

Naylor & Breen Uncategorized

Naylor & Breen Request for Proposals

Naylor and Breen 042524 2×4.5 OCCC RFP

Share this story: