John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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The Impact of Syria on The Rest of the Stuff

Posted on September 6, 2013
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Should the President lose the vote in Congress, he will be severely weakened in the eyes of public opinion, the media, the international crowd and the legislative branch.



The President may or may not tell the Pentagon to launch a few missiles into Syria.  The Congress may or may not tell the President it is ok to launch a few missiles in Syria (although, right now, that looks highly doubtful).

We are not going to launch a full-scale invasion; that much seems pretty clear.  That would be disastrous on a variety of levels:  cost trillions of dollars, needlessly kill thousands of Americans, needlessly draw us into a conflict with no clear resolution, etc.

Presidents usually don’t ask Congress for permission to launch a few missiles, which is why Congress right now is extraordinarily confused.  If this isn’t war, why are you bothering us?

It’s a pretty good question, because the American people are pretty freaked out about this entire thing.  They don’t want us to send a message to Syria, because they don’t want the Syrians (or the Iranians) to send a message back to us.  Karma is a bitch, and most Americans don’t want bad Karma.

Should the President lose the vote in Congress, he will be severely weakened in the eyes of public opinion, the media, the international crowd and the legislative branch.   Unless he wants to take the rest of his Presidency off and leave the keys with Harry Reid, that means he will have to show that he is still relevant to the process, which means he will need to somehow get a victory in the debt limit/appropriations battles that are now coming close to being engaged.

Probably the best thing that could happen to the President in this circumstance is for Republicans to be blamed for a government shut-down.  The President, most likely, will hold firm on Obamacare (why wouldn’t he?   It’s already the law of the land), and conservatives who have been launching attacks on their own leaders, requesting that they shut down the government, are in no mood to budge.

Republican leaders, for obvious reasons, think the conservative strategy is stupid, but what will likely happen is that the hard-right will be emboldened by a weakened President, and will try to shoot for the moon on an appropriations fight.

Republican leaders will try to punt on the spending fight until the end of the year.  They will attempt to pass a three month continuing resolution, because in their view, the debt limit fight is a far better place to get a bigger deal, which includes something on entitlements and something on the sequester (and maybe something on tax reform/revenues).

It is hard to imagine that a bigger deal will come out of this Congress, though.  That would require the rank and file to trust its leadership and there is no evidence that this whole Syria mess has solidified those relationships.

Should the President succeed in getting the Senate to pass a resolution (the House is largely irrelevant, since this isn’t a law that they are trying to pass, but a glorified sense of the Congress), Obama will launch his missiles, and he will be seen as the comeback kid, and that will give him a boost in the minds of the public, the media and the international community.    How he uses this increased political capital is hard to know, but if America is engaged in war-like activities, it is hard to see the Republicans (even conservatives) wanting to shut down the government in the short-term or long-term.  I think that increases the chances that a longer-term CR/omnibus approps, would pass, but probably continuing at the sequester levels.

Depending on how long the campaign lasts (he will get 45 days to start it), that may also lessen the chance for Congress to play the debt limit card as a way to force an Obamacare delay.   You don’t want to default on our debts just as we are bombing the shit out of Damascus.   Boehner will insist on the Boehner rule and every dime the debt limit is increased will require a dime cut from spending now or in the future (all of that offset stuff tends to be a bit murky).

If the House doesn’t have the votes, I doubt Boehner will bring a resolution to the floor, but should he decide to allow the House to work its will and should they reject the President, and should the President decide to go ahead and bomb anyway, there will be a move to impeach him.  Several Republicans (including the President’s good friend Tom Coburn) have already said that the President’s actions (not including Syria) are approaching impeachability, so you will see a move from conservatives to move off of defunding Obamacare and moving on to impeaching Obama.

It’s not going anywhere, but this could cause quite the fight within the Republican Conference between the group that wants to do some serious legislating and the group that wants Mark Levin to mention them in his next book.  So that should be a lot of fun.

Not sure how the Congress can deal with the all of big items (including immigration reform) facing the country in the middle of an impeachment trial, but if the Republicans decide to go the impeachment route, it would be about the only way they could lose their House majority in 2014.