The situation in Syria has grown increasingly complicated for President Barack Obama and his party, raising serious questions about the White House’s credibility on foreign affairs and forcing Democrat lawmakers to choose sides on the controversial issue.
And public statements made in opposition to the president’s proposal have prompted the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to ask that its members "limit public comment" on the situation until they have been briefed by White House officials, The Cable reports.
A CBC aide in an interview referred to the request as “eyebrow-raising,” adding that it "was designed to quiet dissent while shoring up support for President Obama's Syria strategy.”
So it has come to this? CBC lawmakers have been asked to keep quiet on the president’s proposed plan to intervene in Syria until the White House has had a chance to sell them on the idea?
White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice is scheduled to address the CBC on Monday. The group’s support will be crucial if President Obama wants to secure congressional approval for military strikes in Syria.
But until Rice addresses the group, which holds more than 40 House votes, they have been advised by CBC chairwoman Marcia Fudge to "limit public comment until [they] receive additional details," The Cable notes.
Asked if the “request” was basically a gag order, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said "the Administration is reaching out to all Members to ensure they have the information they need to make an informed judgment on this issue."
Another source familiar with the situation explained that the request wasn’t made to “silence” CBC members, but to give the White House a chance to “inform” them of the president’s plan in Syria.
CBC members who have recently spoken out against military action in Syria include Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
“We must learn the lessons of the past. Lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and others," said Rep. Lee.
"If I felt for one minute that my nation was in danger, and I'm 83, I would volunteer and do something to protect her," Rep. Rangel said Wednesday in an interview with The Cable. "But I'll be damned if I see anything worth fighting for."
A coalition of 116 congressmen, including 64 Democrats, sent President Obama a letter last week urging him to seek congressional approval before engaging Syria.
"The Syria vote is splitting the party and from the CBC point of view, it's very sensitive," an aide said in The Cable report. "I think where they were coming from is ‘OK, I know you're against military engagement, however, before you go public opposing involvement, wait and give us some time to convince you why we need to support the president.'"
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution allowing the president to intervene in Syria within a 60-day period, with a 30-day extension.
This means that the battle for congressional approval rests with the House.
So how will this play out? Here’s The Cable’s prediction:
If a resolution to authorize military force fails to pass in the House, it will likely be due to an odd pairing of conservative and libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats, including Congressional Black Caucus members. When asked if his constituents had any appetite for a war with Syria, Rangel replied bluntly. "In answer to your question: Hell no."