WASHINGTON -- With just days left to win over Senate Republicans wavering on supporting a resolution authorizing military action in Syria, the White House is bringing out what may be its most effective tool for swaying this crowd: Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden, who has sealed more than one major deal in the Senate for President Barack Obama (e.g. the January 2013 fiscal cliff deal and the August 2011 debt deal), will host a Sunday night dinner with Republican senators who the administration thinks can be talked into backing the resolution, a White House official confirmed. The dinner will take place at Biden's home in Washington, the Naval Observatory.
The official wouldn't give any details on the guest list. But The Huffington Post has been keeping a running tally of which lawmakers are still undecided on Obama's call for limited strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad -- 18 of those undecideds are Senate Republicans -- so HuffPost reached out to see who may be open to the vice president's pitch.
Eleven of those senators' offices responded. All said they were either not invited to the dinner, not going or hadn't heard of it.
"No invite yet," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
A spokeswoman for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, "Sadly, he wasn't invited!"
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, will "not be at the dinner," said one of his aides. Republican Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and John Cornyn (Texas), the Senate Republican Whip, also won't be going, according to their offices.
The others who got back to HuffPost, including the offices of Republican Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and John Hoeven (N.D.), said they weren't aware of any Sunday dinner plans with Biden.
The White House isn't just leaning on Biden to win over Republican lawmakers. The vice president hosted a Thursday meeting with a handful of wavering Democrats, too. Attendees included Democratic Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Barbara Mikulski (Md.), plus Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy (Mass.). Obama, at the same time, has been calling individual House and Senate members, too.
The Senate is expected to begin debating the Syria resolution next week. While the administration will continue its intense lobbying effort in the coming days -- including Obama delivering a rare Oval Office address to the nation on Tuesday night -- for the moment, it's looking like an uphill battle for the president. Only 28 senators are currently "yes" or "leaning yes" votes, per HuffPost's tally. There are 41 unknowns and 31 considered "no" or "leaning no." Still, with more briefings planned with lawmakers and the president's direct appeal to the country, that could change.
UPDATE: This is story was updated with a response from Sen. Orrin Hatch's office.
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