Pelosi Backs Obama, but Says 'We Just Don't Whip War Votes' (Video)

Pelosi: "We just don't whip war votes." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders aren't whipping votes on the continuing resolution and an amendment to give President Barack Obama authority to arm Syrian rebels against the terrorist group the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.  

But Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi used her regularly-scheduled Wednesday morning news conference to make an impassioned case for members to support their president.  

"I don't know how the vote will turn out," the California Democrat said. "It's not a vote we whip. We just don't whip war votes. But I do think that, as members weigh the factors, that they will, I think, give points to the president for all that he has done, diplomatically, politically, humanitarian-wise and ask for this distinct piece."

Democratic leadership huddled with its members on Tuesday afternoon for a final chance to hash out, as a caucus, any outstanding questions about Obama's request for so-called Title 10 authority, understanding it's important for the party to stand behind the administration — especially on something so contentious.  

Many members, particularly progressives, have deep concerns about the request, which they fear could be a slippery slope to further military action. A large swath of them have said they won't vote for the CR to keep the government open past Sept. 30 if the Title 10 authority amendment is adopted, wanting instead the chance to engage in a full debate on war authorization. Pelosi stressed Wednesday that the vote later in the day "should not be confused with any authorization to go forward," and said she herself had pledged to her members that she would not, under any circumstances, vote for boots on the ground.  

"I've told that to my caucus," she said, adding that she believed that position was "the sentiment of our caucus."  

The current language up for consideration on the House floor, meanwhile, was "one very discrete piece" and a "short-term initiative."  

"I think the president deserves a great deal of credit for what he has done in a nonmilitary way," Pelosi said.  

The ISIS equation has changed the dynamics of Democratic support for the CR in a way stakeholders could not have anticipated one week earlier, when the whip operation was largely focused on the short-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.  

Democrats were at one point weighing their leverage to force Republicans to include a longer-term extension, knowing that their votes would be needed to pass the stopgap spending bill given the reality of Republican defections.  

Now that the upcoming CR vote is no longer about an institution little-known by voters and political observers outside the Beltway, Democrats are resigned.  

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said on Tuesday, "You don't get perfect." And even the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group that egged Republicans on to shut down the government over funding for the health care law, announced on Wednesday that it was withdrawing its "key vote" on the spending bill.  

"While we remain strongly opposed to the CR and to the language extending the charter of the Export-Import Bank (among other things), the addition of the ISIS language does not make this a revealing vote about economic policy," Andy Roth, the club's vice president of government affairs, said in a statement. "Instead, it will be largely driven by foreign policy, something the Club for Growth does not take an official position on."  


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