(WASHINGTON) — Syria won’t be a major issue in the 2014 midterm elections, Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said on Tuesday.
“[Next year] is not going to be a referendum on Syria,” Israel, D-N.Y., told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington. It “will be a referendum on solutions, on who is willing to get things done and who clung to partisanship and extremism.”
“Syria will not be the subject of a referendum in 2014,” he added.
Israel said repeatedly that the DCCC has no official position on whether members should support the resolution but, as a member himself, he said he would support the Senate’s version of the resolution to strike Syria, if there is a vote in the Senate at all.
“Now we’ll see whether there will even be a Senate bill,” he said.
Only 33 House Democrats have said publicly that they support or are likely to support the president’s request that Congress authorize the use of force in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons last month.
A full 106 Democrats in the House are still undecided or haven’t stated publicly their position, according to the ABC News whip count.
Israel, who was initially leaning yes, now says he is as “out front as you can get” in support of a resolution.
And he blasted Republicans for being unable to muster the votes to support the resolution, suggesting that they opposed it only because Obama is a Democrat.
“The Republican caucus has been fighting a civil war on many fronts. Now they’re fighting a civil war on foreign policy,” Israel said. “I don’t know any credible analyst who would argue that if Mitt Romney had been elected president, had produced the same exact resolution, that you would see the whip counts in the Republican caucus that you’re seeing today.”
Israel appeared cautiously optimistic that the Russian proposal, accepted by the Syrian government, to turn over its chemical weapons stockpiles to international control would lead to a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“It’s clear the threat of the use of force persuaded Russia to find a path,” Israel said. “I told the chief of staff yesterday and Secretary [John] Kerry last night, that they need to vet this out.
“They need to engage the Russians and our other international partners robustly and rapidly, and if this is a credible diplomatic alternative, take it,” he added. “If its subterfuge, stay away from it.”
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