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CNN vote count: Obama long way from congressional approval on Syria

By Dan Merica and Lisa Desjardins, CNN
September 6, 2013 -- Updated 1047 GMT (1847 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Most senators undecided on how they'll vote on Syria
  • In the House, there are nearly four "no" votes for every member voting "yes"
  • Despite House GOP leadership's call for approval, not a done deal among rank and file
  • House Dems also a trouble spot for Obama, who is calling for limited action

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama still has a long way to go to secure congressional authorization for military action against Syria even after clearing a key hurdle in the Senate.

According to CNN, there are 18 "no" votes in the Senate and 24 "yes." Fifty-eight senators -- almost the same number of votes needed to overcome any filibuster -- remain undecided.

After changing an Obama-sponsored proposal authorizing a military response to alleged chemical weapons use by Syria, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Wednesday to approve it by a 10-7 margin.

The outcome set up debate next week in the full chamber.

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Three Republicans -- Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee -- voted in favor of taking action.

And that's where the good news ends for the White House.

Obama needs at least 217 votes in the House to secure his resolution. In that chamber, there are nearly four "no" votes for every "yes" at the moment.

According to CNN's count, 109 members plan to vote "no," while 23 -- including a number of high profile Republicans -- plan to back it.

More than 280 representatives remain undecided.

Of concern to the administration is a trend showing an increase in "no" votes, although lawmakers remain out of town until next week and many have yet to receive classified briefings where the administration says it can spell out more evidence and more candidly answer questions.

Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, Rep. Bob Gibbs and Rep. Cynthia Lummis are among those who have come out against the plan.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, signaled through a spokesman on Wednesday that she was planning to vote "yes." But the same official said on Thursday that she wanted to first see the resolution language and was now undecided.

Those decisions put those lawmakers at odds with their leadership since House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have backed Obama. Boehner has said it is up to the White House to get the votes.

House Democrats, too, have reservations about Syria. Many, especially liberals, cite war weariness and prolonged intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan as reasons to oppose new military action.

Others want to hear more details in classified meetings or see resolution language, which in the Senate would limit any strike, set a time limit for action, and prohibit the use of American troops in Syria.

"After 6,668 American troop deaths and tens of thousands of American wounded, after spending $2 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan representing $40,000 in debt for every American family, now is the time to nation-build in America and invest in the growth of the American economy," New York Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat, said in a statement to CNN.

Despite the vocal opposition in Congress, Obama remained confident he'd get the necessary support.

"I believe Congress will approve it because I think America recognizes that as difficult as it is to take any military action and even one as limited as we are talking about, even one without boots on the ground, that's a sober decision," he said at a news conference on Wednesday in Sweden.

CNN's Sara Fischer contributed to this report

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