Every member of the Senate with a glimmer of ambition to run for president — and that's most of them — knows that a vote for war can make or break a political career. The example of
So while it might be tempting to assume that members of
Obama, of course, has the most to lose. He has made it clear that, like all his recent predecessors, he doesn't think he needs authorization from Congress to launch missile strikes against Syria. But that only underscores the fact that Obama turned to Congress out of weakness, not strength.
The president hasn't been able to build a national consensus in favor of intervention in Syria. He doesn't have the United Nations Security Council,
If Obama loses in both houses, his power and prestige will suffer a potentially crippling blow; he'll look like the least effective president since
The stakes are also high for Democrats hoping to run for president in 2016, including
Democrats in Congress are also acutely aware of the stakes. Those representing liberal states or districts have to worry about primary challengers to their left. They remember how Sen.
Moreover, the party is deeply divided, partly on generational lines. When the
The betting in Washington is that the Senate will pass a resolution authorizing military action, but only after amending Obama's broadly worded proposal to impose time limits and prohibit any escalation without another debate. The House is harder to predict, even though Boehner, Pelosi and House Majority Leader
Regardless of the outcome, the country stands to gain from this debate. We're overdue for a serious national conversation on the stakes and scale of
For two years, Obama has declared that toppling Syrian President