Free Vote

Amidst the united front displayed by Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner and Eric Cantor this morning in backing a prospective use-of-force resolution on Syria, there is this important cautionary note from Greg Sargent after a conversation with House Democratic leadership member Chris van Hollen:

In an interview with me today, Dem Rep. Chris Van Hollen — a key member of the Dem leadership who is also respected by Congressional liberals — was surprisingly pointed in warning that doing too much to win over the likes of McCain and Graham could end up driving him away, along with many other liberals and Dems.

“You’ve got some members of Congress, particularly Republicans in the Senate, who would like to use this resolution to open the door to large scale U.S. intervention,” Van Hollen told me. “That would be a big mistake. So to the extent that the administration tries to placate those voices, they’re going to get a lot of resistance from those of us, like me, who believe the scope needs to be significantly narrowed.”

Van Hollen declined to say whether he thought a majority of House Dems would support Obama’s request in the end. “I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “This is a matter of conscience, and each member must make up his or her own mind. this is not an issue that will be whipped by the Democratic leadership, so the president will have to make his case to members of Congress individually.”


Since it’s extremely unlikely that Boehner will whip Republicans to support his (and Obama’s) position on Syria, it appears this will be a true “free vote.” We saw how well that worked out for David Cameron last week.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.