By CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN and JAKE SHERMAN | 9/4/13 8:59 PM EDT
President Barack Obama faced a heavy lift in Congress this fall when his agenda included only budget issues and immigration reform.
Now with Syria in the mix, the president appears ready to spend a lot of the political capital that he would have kept in reserve for his domestic priorities.
A resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria won’t make it through the House or the Senate without significant cajoling from the White House. That means Obama, who struggles to get Congress to follow his lead on almost everything, could burn his limited leverage convincing Democrats and Republicans to vote for an unpopular military operation that even the president says he could carry out with or without their approval.
“The only effect is — and I don’t mean this to be dismissive in any way — it will be taking up some time and there be some degree of political capital expended by all,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the Foreign Relations Committee ranking member who helped draft the Senate resolution. “At the end of the day, it’s a tough vote for anybody because the issue is trying to draft an authorization knowing that they’re going to implement it.”
The West Wing says it’s too early to know how Obama’s surprise decision to seek congressional authorization will affect the rest of his agenda, but his advisers are betting that a win could usher in other domestic successes. A failed vote, however, would undoubtedly weaken him.
A senior administration official said the effort could build some trust between the White House and Republicans that might ease tensions in negotiations over the budget and other issues.
“The idea that passing the authorization for use of military force in Syria would give the administration more leverage in future political debates is absurd,” one senior GOP leadership aide said. “They are currently spending political capital they don’t have.”
No matter how it plays out, the sudden emergence of a fight over Syria presents both political and logistical challenges for Congress and the White House.
House Republicans were already grumbling about the prospect of several perilous votes this fall — first on raising the debt limit and extending government funding, then on a package of reforms to the immigration system. White House aides began hearing skepticism from Republican leaders that they could force a debt limit hike through the chamber and then press for passage of even a pared-back immigration bill.
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