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The Iraq Hangover: Lawmakers Who Backed War Now Skittish On Syria

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Secretary of State John Kerry has attempted to convince Congress that intervention in Syria will be nothing like war in Iraq. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Secretary of State John Kerry has attempted to convince Congress that intervention in Syria will be nothing like war in Iraq. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON -- Eleven years ago, the vast majority of the U.S. Congress voted to invade Iraq, taking the Bush administration at its word that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and that any intervention would be quick and cheap. None of those statements turned out to be true.

Now, as President Barack Obama is trying to convince Congress to authorize the use of military force in Syria, the 192 current members who were also in office in 2002 are grappling with how to vote in the newest conflict, with the Iraq War casting a long shadow.

Of the 115 lawmakers who voted to invade Iraq and are still in office, 35 now appear to be leaning against striking Syria, with 25 leaning toward supporting Obama's plan, according to a count by The Huffington Post; the vast majority remain undecided.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) voted to authorize force in Iraq, but he is now leaning toward opposing action in Syria. In his statement explaining his views, he specifically cited the broken promises of Iraq.

"I trusted their assessment, our president, and the secretary of state as he made the case before the UN," he said. "I supported the president’s request and voted yes. The search for weapons of mass destruction came up empty, and cost our nation lives and money. We are being asked again by the chief executive to authorize the use of force against Syria. ... I am not convinced that a limited strike against Syria at this time is warranted."

"In the past, even limited military actions have had a way of spinning out of control, costing American taxpayers billions of dollars that we simply do not have," said Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), another lawmaker who voted for war in Iraq but is now uneasy about military intervention in Syria.

In explaining their reluctance to strike Syria, some lawmakers are using reasoning that could have kept the nation out of Iraq as well.

"Syria has not declared war on us," Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said at a recent town hall meeting in his state. "Why would we start escalating the crisis? I would be totally against that."

With the vote expected to be tight, a crucial task for Obama will be convincing Democrats who voted against invading Iraq that the situation in Syria is different and warrants U.S. intervention.

So far, Obama appears to have picked up the support of 15 of the 77 lawmakers who voted against invading Iraq. Seventeen are leaning against intervention, with the majority still undecided.

It's a case that Obama himself has been striving to make. After all, he largely beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary by reminding voters that the key difference between the two of them was that he was against invading Iraq. Clinton voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq, as a senator from New York, while Obama hadn't been elected to the Senate yet.

"The key point that I want to emphasize to the American people: The military plan that has been developed by the Joint Chiefs, and that I believe is appropriate, is proportional. It is limited. It does not involve boots on the ground. This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan," Obama said on Tuesday.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who voted against the Iraq War, made that argument Tuesday during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, where she indicated she was inclined to back intervention in Syria.

"I've heard some of my colleagues compare President Obama's position on Syria to the decision to invade Iraq ... I believe it's a totally false comparison," she said.

"In Iraq, the Bush administration prepared to invade and occupy a country with well over 100,000 troops," she added. "In this case, the president's been clear: no ground invasion, no occupation. We'll have that in our resolution."

The Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 on Wednesday afternoon to give Obama the authority to use military force in Syria. Boxer voted with the majority.

Some of Obama's strongest allies on intervention in Syria, such as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), were against invading Iraq. They will now be crucial to convincing their colleagues that this time is different.

But so far, that argument hasn't been enough for some of the Iraq war "no" votes.

"I see this potential bombing campaign as a potential next step towards full-fledged war. We've been here before," Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said during the same Senate hearing. He voted against the Senate resolution on Syria on Wednesday.

"The Iraq War began as an international effort to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and then years of a no-fly zone and air strikes to prevent Saddam from threatening his neighbors or reconstituting his arsenal of chemical weapons. And as we all know, this limited military action eventually led to what is one of the biggest blunders in U.S. foreign policy -- a war that I voted against," he added. "Many who voted for it came to regret that vote. Americans are understandably weary. After the fiasco of Iraq and over a decade of war, how can this administration make a guarantee that our military actions will be limited?"

List below of the lawmakers leaning one way or the other (does not include undecideds):

Yes on Iraq / Expected no on Syria

  • Sen. Boozman (R-Ark.)*
  • Sen. Crapo (R-Idaho)
  • Sen. Enzi (R-Wyo.)
  • Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa)
  • Sen. Harkin (D-Iowa)
  • Sen. Inhofe (R-Okla.)
  • Sen. Markey (D-Mass.)*
  • Sen. Moran (R-Kan.)*
  • Rep. Aderholt (R-Ala.)
  • Rep. Andrews (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Bachus (R-Ala.)
  • Rep. Barton (R-Texas)
  • Rep. Bilirakis (R-Fla.)
  • Rep. Capito (R-W.Va.)
  • Rep. Coble (R-N.C.)
  • Rep. Culberson (R-Texas)
  • Rep. Forbes (R-Va.)
  • Rep. Goodlatte (R-Va.)
  • Rep. Hall (R-Texas)**
  • Rep. Jenkins (R-Kan.)
  • Rep. Jones (R-N.C.)
  • Rep. Kingston (R-Ga.)
  • Rep. Latham (R-Iowa)
  • Rep. LoBiondo (R-N.J.)
  • Rep. Lynch (D-Mass.)
  • Rep. Matheson (D-Utah)
  • Rep. McKeon (R-Calif.)
  • Rep. Miller (R-Fla.)
  • Rep. Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
  • Rep. Shimkus (R-Ill.)
  • Rep. Smith (D-Wash.)
  • Rep. Terry (R-Neb.)
  • Rep. Tiberi (R-Ohio)
  • Rep. Wolf (R-Va.)
  • Rep. Young (R-Fla.)
  • Rep. Young (R-Alaska)

No on Iraq / Expected no on Syria

  • Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.)*
  • Sen. Udall (D-N.M.)*
  • Rep. Capuano (D-Mass.)
  • Rep. Clyburn (D-S.C.)
  • Rep. Doggett (D-Texas)
  • Rep. Duncan (R-Tenn.)
  • Rep. Farr (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Lee (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. McCollum (D-Minn.)
  • Rep. McDermott (D-Wash.)
  • Rep. McGovern (D-Mass.)
  • Rep. Meeks (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Miller (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Rangel (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Serrano (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Thompson (D-Miss.)
  • Rep. Tierney (D-Mass.)

Yes on Iraq / Expected yes on Syria

  • Sen. Burr (R-N.C.)*
  • Sen. Carper (D-Del.)
  • Sen. Chambliss (R-Ga.)*
  • Sen. Feinstein (D-Calif.)
  • Sen. Flake (R-Ariz.)*
  • Sen. Graham (R-S.C.)*
  • Sen. Isakson (R-Ga.)*
  • Sen. Kirk (R-Ill.)*
  • Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.)
  • Sen. Nelson (D-Fla.)
  • Sen. Reid (D-Nev.)
  • Sen. Schumer (D-N.Y.)
  • Sen. Toomey (R-Pa.)*
  • Sen. Vitter (R-La.)*
  • Rep. Boehner (R-Ohio)
  • Rep. Cantor (R-Va.)
  • Rep. Deutch (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. Engel (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Hoyer (D-Md.)
  • Rep. Israel (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. King (R-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Pascrell (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Rogers (R-Mich.)
  • Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)
  • Rep. Sherman (D-Calif.)

No on Iraq / Expected yes on Syria

  • Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.)
  • Sen. Cardin (D-Md.)*
  • Sen. Durbin (D-Ill.)
  • Sen. Leahy (D-Vt.)
  • Sen. Levin (D-Mich.)
  • Sen. Menéndez (D-N.J.)*
  • Sen. Stabenow (D-Mich.)
  • Rep. Becerra (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Hastings (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. Langevin (D-R.I.)
  • Rep. Levin (D-Mich.)
  • Rep. Moran (D-Va.)
  • Rep. Pelosi (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Rahall (D-W.Va.)
  • Rep. Sanchez (D-Calif.)

* Senator was a member of the House in 2002

** Member switched parties since Iraq vote

Are we missing anyone? Any updates? Email us here.

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