Pelosi Teaming With White House on Syria Whip

Posted September 6, 2013 at 2:29pm

The White House and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are banding together to nudge Democrats toward supporting intervention in Syria.

Pelosi sent yet another “Dear Colleague” letter Friday to her Democratic cohorts urging them to attend two caucus meetings: one with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough at 9 a.m. Tuesday and another on Wednesday.

“Many Members have said that the President needs to take his case to the American people,” the California Democrat writes. “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.”

House Democrats are likely to hear from McDonough and Pelosi that they need to support the president in his bid for intervention or risk compromising Obama’s efficacy on a number of issues.

Democrats are also likely to hear about more intelligence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons. But that point does not appear to be the rub for most Democrats, who generally agree Assad used chemical weapons.

Indeed, Democrats are expressing concern about the implications of a strike and whether there may be alternative routes to enforce “red lines” against the use of chemical weapons.

In her letter, Pelosi addresses one question some Democrats are raising: What about diplomatic efforts?

“A number of Members have suggested diplomatic efforts instead of a military strike,” Pelosi writes. “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” from 11 countries that calls for a “‘strong international response.’”

But Samantha Power, ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday that “we have exhausted the alternatives” and now is the time to act, lest it embolden others, including Hezbollah, Iran and North Korea.

Power also said that the United Nations is effectively broken. Assad, she said, must have thought “he could get away with it because Russia would have Syria’s back in the Security Council.”

Sadly, she said, “the Security Council the world needs … is not the Security Council we have.”

But many Democrats have signaled that President Barack Obama has left them in a precarious position by asking them to authorize military action in Syria. And many supporters of striking Syria — Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., included — have signaled that Obama needs to do more to make his case to the American people.

Obama is scheduled to address the nation from the White House on Tuesday.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.