Lawmakes who plan to vote against military action say their constituents oppose it
The number of those who plan to vote "no" grew significantly over the weekend
Obama will take his pitch to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to try to find more "yes" votes
As President Barack Obama channels his inner salesman to pitch military action in Syria, he shouldn’t be surprised when he finds a number of congressional doors already closed.
One common refrain from those who plan to vote against the resolution to authorize military action in Syria is they simply can’t support a proposal that their constituents vociferously oppose.
“Both in terms of the percentage opposed – I would have to say it is by far the single biggest issue we have seen,” said Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana.
Daines represents all of Montana – he is an “at large” member – and he said that during the August recess he put 3,000 miles on his truck, crisscrossing the state and attending events that put him in close conversations with his constituents.
At coffee hours, town halls, and meet and greets all over the state, Daines found that the sentiment was overwhelming: “I am hearing from the people of Montana. They are telling me we should not be involved.”
“It is called the people’s house for a reason,” Daines concluded. “We are here to express the voice of the people. This is an example of where Congress, hopefully, will express the will of the American people.”
The number of “no” votes in Congress continues to grow, while lawmakers planning to vote “yes” are becoming an even smaller minority, according to CNN’s latest vote count.
There are currently 148 House members prepared to vote against Obama’s call for military action – with 30 Democrats joining 118 Republicans in their opposition. That overall number of “no” votes has grown from 109 on Friday.
In order to win passage of the authorization, Obama will have to persuade 270 members to vote “yes” – a heavy lift, considering there are currently only 25 members who say they plan to vote “yes” on military action, 17 Democrats and eight Republicans. The number of “yes” votes has only increased by two since Friday.
A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday shows that even though eight in 10 Americans believe that Bashar al-Assad’s regime gassed its own people, a strong majority don’t want Congress to pass a resolution authorizing a military strike against it.
Since Obama unexpectedly asked Congress in August to authorize military action in Syria, polls have found that Americans are opposed to such action.
The Senate has been more receptive than the House to Obama’s authorization request. There are currently 25 “yes” and 23 “no” votes in the Senate, with a significant 52 senators undecided.
But the trend favors the “no” votes – with a handful of moderate Democrats in the last three days coming out against the proposal.
“After doing my due diligence, I believe we need an alternative path forward in dealing with the Assad regime,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota in a statement. “We must balance the legitimate concerns that Americans have about the use of military force with our strategic interests.”
Other Democratic senators echoed Heitkamp: Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska.
Pryor issued a statement Saturday saying Obama and his national security team had not yet made an effective case for taking action against al-Assad’s regime and laying out the criteria that had to be met in order for him to support military action in Syria.
“Based on the information presented to me and the evidence I have gathered, I do not believe these criteria have been met,” Pryor said.
Begich told people on a telephone town hall last week that he was a “probable no” on Syrian authorization.
“This has probably been the No. 1 issue, especially in the last week, that Alaskans have been contacting my office, as well as when I was back home for the last month,” Begich said.
Because of the possibility of a filibuster, Obama and supporters need 60 votes in the Senate to win passage.
Despite the vocal opposition and light support, majorities in both the House and Senate remain undecided on the proposal, and the White House is putting on the hard sell to court those possible “yes” votes.
The Senate is expected to take up the resolution after returning from its month-long summer recess Monday.
White House officials will travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to try to make their case with lawmakers, hours before Obama addresses the nation in a prime-time speech.
CNN’s Paul Steinhauser, John Helton, Ashley Killough and Lisa Desjardins contributed to this report.