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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

The vote counts for congressional authorization for military strikes in Syria look grim, though that could change. But what if it doesn't? President Obama and his staff have consistently refused to say what the president would do if Congress were to deny his request for authorization to use force. If he decided to strike Bashar al-Assad's regime anyway -- something he has said is within his legal authority -- then the White House could turn to 1999 and the Clinton administration's handling of the war in Kosovo as a roadmap.

The facts don't line up identically, but they're close enough, some argue. President Clinton authorized air strikes in Kosovo in March 1999. A month later, the House took votes on a declaration of war and an authorization for the use of military force (i.e. what Congress is considering now) and rejected them both. But a month after that, the House passed a funding measure that kept money flowing for the Kosovo intervention.

"In short, and simplifying a bit, Congress declined to formally authorize Clinton's use of force in Kosovo, but it funded his efforts," Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor and former assistant U.S. attorney general, wrote on his blog last week.

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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) said in a Monday statement that she does not support the current Senate authorization for military action in Syria.

“I still believe we need to have an open and honest discussion on the Senate floor about the potential use of force in Syria," Heitkamp said. "However, after all these meetings, I still have serious concerns.  I cannot support the current Senate resolution to authorize force at this time."

Heitkamp and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who also said he opposes the current resolution, are working on an alternative that would give Syrian President Bashar al-Assad 45 days to sign an international chemical weapons ban and begin turning over his regime's chemical weapons stockpile.

Follow TPM's ongoing Syria whip count here.

An alternative resolution regarding Syria, to be introduced Tuesday by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), calls on the Obama administration to seek diplomatic and legal routes for responding to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, rather than pursuing military action.

"While I believe the Assad regime must be held accountable, I reject that it has to mean a military response to be effective," Lee wrote in a letter accompanying a draft of the resolution being circulated in the House. "There is no military solution to this complex civil war, and while a negotiated settlement is necessary, I do not believe military action will further that goal."

The resolution calls for increased humanitarian aid, increased sanctions against the Syrian government and the investigation of crimes against humanity that have allegedly been committed by the al-Assad regime. The full text is below.

  House Democrat Resolution Against Syria Action by tpmdocs

Oct. 1 is the date for the Obama administration. That's when the Affordable Care Act launches in earnest: People will be purchasing health insurance on the marketplaces created by the law, with tax subsides offered through the law. With three weeks to go, the administration and its partners in the states and the advocacy world are accelerating their campaign to inform Americans about Obamacare.

It's a three-fold act. Grassroots groups -- in a manner adapted from the Obama campaign's famously well-honed micro-targeted outreach -- are canvassing neighborhoods, taking the message to specific segments of the uninsured. President Bill Clinton gave a speech last week in Arkansas -- the first of many, as described to TPM by the White House, from both the former president and others -- trying to make the undeniably complicated law easier for people to understand.

And lastly, to fully complete the analogy with a campaign mentality, television ad buys are taking place all over the country, both from the administration and the individual state insurance marketplaces.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent Friday her fourth letter of the week to the Democratic caucus, updating them on the Obama administration's push for congressional authorization for military action in Syria.

Pelosi pointed to the White House's diplomatic efforts regarding Syria and noted that members could receive further briefings with administration officials "based on member requests." She also reminded caucus members that the classified intelligence reports on the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus are "available every day of the week for your review."

The text is below.

Dear Colleague,

 

As we continue our thoughtful conversation on the President’s request for Congressional authorization on Syria, a number of Members have suggested diplomatic efforts instead of a military strike.  These efforts are not mutually exclusive.  The Administration has been actively engaged in diplomacy and today, at a meeting of the G-20, released a Joint Statement on Syria by the leaders and representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America calling for “a strong international response” and stating that:

 

“The international norm against the use of chemical weapons is longstanding and universal.  The use of chemical weapons anywhere diminishes the security of people everywhere.  Left unchallenged, it increases the risk of further use and proliferation of these weapons.”

 

The full statement can be viewed here.

 

Many Members have said that the President needs to take his case to the American people.  The President announced today that he will again address the nation on Tuesday, September 10, which will allow him to make the intelligence case to the American people as to the Assad regime’s responsibility for the attack and why it’s in our national interest to respond to it. 

 

A number of Members have availed themselves of the briefings offered by the Administration.  As the House comes back into session next week, I also want to call your attention to the bipartisan classified briefing that will be held for all Members onMonday, September 9th at 5:00 p.m. in the CVC Auditorium.  Additionally, Chairman Becerra has planned two Caucus meetings next week: the first on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough as well as an additional Caucus meeting on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m.  Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Ruppersberger has encouraged you to read the classified intelligence report, which is available every day of the week for your review.  Administration officials have also been briefing various parts of our Caucus via conference call and stand ready to set up additional calls based on Member requests.   

 

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts as we continue this critical debate.  I have taken seriously both your public and private comments, and continue to pass them along to the White House. 

 

best regards,

 

 

NANCY PELOSI

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Friday at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg that Russia would aid Syria and Bashar al-Assad's regime in the event of a foreign military attack, according to local reports.

The RT Network reported Putin's comments. Puting had previously suggested his country would aid the Syrian government if it was attacked, according to a Fox News report Thursday.

Will we help Syria? We will," Putin said. "And we are already helping, we send arms, we cooperate in the economics sphere, we hope to expand our cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, which includes sending humanitarian aid to support those people – the civilians – who have found themselves in a very dire situation in this country." 

Putin and President Obama have publicly been at odds over military strikes against al-Assad since Obama first proposed them. Putin has cast doubt on U.S. evidence that al-Assad's forces carried out the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus that killed more than 1,000 people, and his government has released its own report concluding that the Syrian rebels conducted the attack.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) opposes the Senate's proposed authorization for military action in Syria, his aide told Politico Thursday, making him the first congressional leader to come out against the resolution.

“If the vote were held today, Sen. Cornyn would vote no,” Megan Mitchell, Cornyn's spokeswoman, said. “What he is waiting to see is a credible plan from the administration that will achieve our national security objectives. Specifically, a plan to keep chemical weapons out of the hands of terrorists."

Several other congressional leaders -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy -- are still undecided, but Cornyn is the first to say he's opposed. The rest of the leadership on both sides has voiced its support for President Obama's plans for limited military strikes in Syria.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent Thursday her third "Dear Colleague" letter of the week to the House Democratic Caucus, urging them to approve military strikes in Syria.

Pelosi said in the letter that the resolution passed Wednesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee addressed some of the concerns of caucus members.

The text is below.

Dear Colleague,

 

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution to authorize limited and targeted military action in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. 

 

The Senate resolution addresses some of the concerns expressed by many of our House members.  Specifically, the resolution prevents boots on the ground, ties the authorization more closely to the use of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction and has a limited timetable.

 

In order for the resolution to be filed in the Senate in a timely manner, the Senate and the House will each convene for a pro forma session tomorrow, Friday, September 6, 2013.  The Senate expects to consider the joint resolution during the week of September 9.

 

As this process moves forward, I am grateful to those who have provided their ideas, suggestions and concerns and urge you to continue to do so. 

 

Thank you again for the thoughtful and deliberative tone during this serious debate. 

 

best regards,

 

 

NANCY PELOSI

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he would oppose the authorization for military action in Syria passed Wednesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The statement leaves open the possibility that Manchin could change his mind if the resolution is amended on the Senate floor.

“Given the case that has been presented to me, I believe that a military strike against Syria at this time is the wrong course of action," Manchin said in a statement. "In good conscience, I cannot support the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution and will be working with my colleagues and the administration to develop other options. I believe that we must exhaust all diplomatic options and have a comprehensive plan for international involvement before we act.”

TPM is tracking Congress members' public statements on military strikes in Syria here.

As the struggle to secure House votes for or against authorization for military strikes in Syria accelerates, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has started making plans to team up with isolationist conservatives to stop the resolution, TPM has learned.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has become the leader of the progressive resistance. He is planning an "ad hoc whip operation," as he called it in a phone interview with TPM. That includes supplying other aligned members with talking points and giving them the names of undecided colleagues to lobby for a no vote.

Grayson's office has also been in touch with staffs for Republicans who oppose military action against Syria, such as tea party favorite Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), about crafting an organized strategy for lobbying no votes.

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