First Thoughts: Wooing the left

Obama administration woos the left… Where thing stand on Capitol Hill after two full days of lobbying since Labor Day… The GOP 2016ers in the Senate (Rubio, Cruz, Paul) are all against… On Ed Markey’s “present” vote… Reid begins process of putting authorization on Senate floor… Obama at the G-20… And Liz Cheney’s past week as a Senate candidate.

*** Wooing the left: In its lobbying effort to get support for military intervention in Syria, the Obama administration now has one clear target: the left. Yesterday, per the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, White House officials held a conference call with House progressives. Today, Secretary of State John Kerry chats with liberal bloggers, and he also sits down for an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. Here’s the logic behind the effort: Locking down House Democratic -- and liberal -- votes allows the White House to go back to House Speaker John Boehner to get the remainder of available Republican votes. But the White House will have to deliver a large share of Democratic votes. And consequently, we can report that momentum is growing for President Obama to address the nation in a primetime speech. If Democrats -- many of whom were elected in the aftermath of Iraq -- are going to have to cast a tough vote for military intervention, they’re going to need cover from Obama.

*** Where things stand on Capitol Hill: As good of a Tuesday that the Obama administration had in marshaling support on Capitol Hill to intervene in Syria, Wednesday was equally as bad. Yes, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed its authorization to use force. But it was by a narrow 10-7 vote, with a noted hawk (and potential 2016er) like Marco Rubio (R-FL) voting “no,” and with new Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) voting “present.” (As a result, the man who replaced John Kerry in the Senate listened for hours to the current secretary of state make an impassioned plea for intervention and only could vote “present.” Ouch.) In addition, the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday greeted Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel with tough and skeptical questions about using force in Syria. So here’s where things stand on Capitol Hill: Things aren’t getting anything easier for the administration; in fact, they’re getting harder. We’ll see what today brings…

*** The GOP 2016ers in the Senate are all against: Rubio’s “no” vote yesterday means that the three Senate Republicans who could possibly run for president in 2016 -- Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul -- all appear opposed to using force in Syria. As one of us wrote earlier this week, Republicans have to navigate two cross-currents here: 1) the GOP base’s dislike of Obama, and 2) the GOP base’s desire to always side with Israel and its interests. Well, we know what force is winning so far. The Rubio/Cruz/Paul opposition to using military force in Syria does create a GIANT opening for a conservative hawk in the 2016 field. (Hello, Chris Christie?) By the way, you have to wonder if Rubio’s co-authorship of the Senate immigration bill influenced his vote on Syria. His statement explaining his vote was conflicted and a bit contradictory -- America must lead, chaos follows when it doesn’t, Syria is of vital importance to Israel, Assad must face consequences for his actions, but the U.S. shouldn’t intervene militarily because Obama should have been assisting the rebels more over the past two years, Rubio said yesterday. Paul and Cruz had all telegraphed their opposition for months (and years in Paul’s case). But Rubio’s decision was a noticeable reversal from his past rhetoric and actions.

*** On Markey’s “present” vote: Also catching our eye from yesterday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote was Markey’s “present.” It was HARDLY a profile in courage for the relatively new senator. The rationale from his statement: He needs more time to look at the classified information before deciding. “Before casting such a monumental vote, I need to review all of the relevant classified materials relating to this matter before I make a decision as important as authorizing the use of military force… In the days to come, I will further examine the classified intelligence information and consult with experts before deciding how I will vote on the final resolution when it is considered on the Senate floor.” As the band Rush once famously sang, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Bottom line: Markey’s “present” vote might as well have been a “no.”

*** Reid begins process of putting the authorization on the Senate floor: Speaking of final votes in the Senate, NBC’s Kasie Hunt reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will briefly convene the Senate on Friday to begin the process of debating and voting on the authorization resolution, a senior Democratic aide said Wednesday. This means Reid will be able to file cloture -- i.e., set the stage to hold the key vote on Syria -- on Monday. Hunt adds that he timing of the key vote is still uncertain. It's complicated by Senate procedure and precedent. This move would allow it to come early in the week, Monday night or Tuesday -- but any single senator could object, effectively pushing it later in the week, to Wednesday or Thursday.

*** Obama at the G-20: With President Obama now in Russia for the G-20 meeting there, here’s a situation he’s facing from the world community: A good chunk of the G-20 nations don’t want the U.S. to intervene in Syria, either. Yes, France supports it. But others -- including Russia, China, Britain, Brazil -- don’t. Does that change over the next day or so?

*** Liz Cheney’s past week: Over the past week, Liz Cheney has taken two positions that run counter to her better-known father. First, she stated that she’s “not pro-gay marriage” -- even though her sister is gay and married, and even though Dick Cheney said back in 2009 that he supports gay marriage. In addition, her sister went on Facebook to attack her position, suggesting Liz Cheney didn’t vet this with her family. Second, she announced her opposition to the authorization to use U.S. military force in Syria, something we imagine her father would support. Of course, she’s not alone in being a hawk but against this intervention (see Marco Rubio). But with these two actions, Liz Cheney seems like she’s trying, well, a little too hard to play to the conservative GOP base -- so hard, in, fact, that she finds herself at odds with her father on these issues. And there aren’t many in the Republican Party who are MORE conservative than Dick Cheney.

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