House Democrats betting Syria won’t be a major issue during 2014 elections

Chris Moody
Yahoo News

The possibility of a U.S. strike on Syria may drive public discussions today, but the debate over military action won’t be a significant issue for House candidates during the midterm elections next year, New York Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said.

"2014 is not going to be a referendum on Syria," Israel, who is responsible for electing Democrats to the House, told reporters during a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor on Tuesday.

Many Democrats have pushed back against President Barack Obama's call for Congress to OK a military strike against the Syrian government, which the administration believes killed more than 1,400 Syrians in a chemical attack on civilians in August. The U.S. is in talks with Russia to resolve the issue diplomatically so long as Syria turns over its chemical weapons to international authorities.

Israel argued that the attention to Syria would “evaporate” by the next election, whether the U.S. moves to strike Syria or not.

“It’s just so fluid right now. If the Russia deal is a real deal, I think this evaporates fairly quickly. I can’t imagine voters waking up in one year and two months saying, I’m going to cast my vote based on Syria, Israel said. “I just don’t think many people are going to be thinking next November 2014 about the debate on a very limited military operation in 2013.”

Instead, Israel said, campaigns are more likely to debate how to reform the 2010 federal health care law and the economy in the run-up to Election Day.

Although there are ongoing discussions about a solution in Syria that could avoid a U.S. military strike, the debate over whether the U.S. should get involved has divided lawmakers of both parties. Early unofficial whip counts suggest that passing a congressional resolution authorizing force through both chambers of Congress would be unlikely if the vote were taken today.

For the past week, Obama and administration officials have worked to convince lawmakers to support a strike through public and confidential briefings. On Tuesday, the president is planning to meet with Senate Democrats and Republicans, and he is scheduled to deliver a national address about the issue from the White House later that night.

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