Jump to Any Race
National Politics|By Amy Walter, September 6, 2013

With so many Republicans apparently committed to voting against a military strike against Syria, the Obama Administration will be forced to rely on Democrats, including liberals, to win the vote in Congress. From an ideological perspective it looks odd, but members of Congress lining up to support the president of their party - or against the president of the other party - on military action is nothing new.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton asked Congress for authorization to conduct military air operations and missile strikes in Kosovo. The resolution passed the Senate 58-41, with 72 percent of the "yes" votes coming from Democrats. The resolution failed in the House (213-213), but 85 percent of the 213 "yes" votes came from Democrats.

1999 Kosovo Resolution (S.Con.Res 21)

Vote PositionHouse (4/28/1999)Senate (3/23/1999)
Voted Yes213 [181 D (85%), 31 R (15%)]58 [42 D (72%), 16 R (28%)]
Voted No213 [26 D (12%), 187 R (88%)]41 [3 D (7%), 38 R (93%)]
Did Not Vote8 [4 D, 4 R]1 [1 R]

In 2002, when Republican George W. Bush was president, the Iraq War Resolution passed the Senate, 77-23. Two-thirds (62 percent) of the votes in favor came from Republicans. In the House, 73 percent of the support (215 of 296 “yes” votes), came from Republicans.

2002 Iraq Resolution (H.J. Res. 114)

Vote PositionHouse (10/10/2002)Senate (10/11/2002)
Voted Yes296 [81 D (27%), 215 R (73%)]77 [29 D (38%), 48 R (62%)]
Voted No133 [126 D (95%), 6 R (5%), 1 I]23 [21 D (91%), 1 R (4%), 1 I]
Did Not Vote3 [1 D, 2 R]0

To be sure, Kosovo and Iraq were two very different military operations taking place at two very different times. However, while there were some defections on both sides, most members of Congress stood with their party. The big difference is that in 1999 and 2002 the potential military action, as well as the approval ratings of the two presidents, was more popular than either President Obama or action in Syria is today.

Presidential Job Approval At Time of War Resolution

President% Approve
Clinton (4/26-27/99)60%
Bush (10/3-6/02)67%
Obama (9/3/13)44%

Public Opinion of Military Operation Before Before Vote in Congress

Military Operation% Approve% Disapprove
Kosovo (3/19-21/99): Gallup**46%43%
Iraq (10/3-6/02): Gallup**53%40%
Syria (8/28-9/1/13) ABC/WaPo**36%59%

It’s a lot easier to stick with your “team” when the leader of your squad – and what he’s asking you to vote for – is popular rather than unpopular.

Web Editor Loren Fulton contributed to this article

** Full question:

"If a peace agreement is not reached between the Yugoslavian Serbs and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, NATO has said it would carry out air and missile attacks against Serb military installations. Would you favor or oppose the U.S. being a part of that military action?"

March 19-21, 1999
Favor: 46%
Oppose: 43%

http://www.gallup.com/poll/3826/support-us-kosovo-involvement-drops.aspx

"Would you favor or oppose invading Iraq with U.S. ground troops in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power?"

Oct. 3-6, 2002
Favor: 53%
Oppose: 40%

http://www.gallup.com/poll/7990/public-support-iraq-invasion-inches-upward.aspx

"The United States says it has determined that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in the civil war there. Given this, do you support or oppose the United States launching missile strikes against the Syrian government?"

August 28-September 1, 2013
Support: 36%
Oppose: 59%
Unsure: 5%

http://www.pollingreport.com/syria.htm