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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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September 12th, 2013
12:59 PM ET

Has Obama paid political price for Syria?

Political capital does not come cheap in Washington, D.C. After weeks of trying to rally Congress to support him on a fast-changing policy in Syria, President Barack Obama may have broken the bank on what political capital he has left in his second term.

Congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he was surprised by how politicized the vote for military authorization in Syria has become.

Several Democratic representatives, including former veterans Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, oppose authorization.

"It's military families like mine that are the first to bleed when our nation makes this kind of commitment," Duckworth said in a statement.

But Israel said Obama is not hurting his credibility with Democratic members of the House, adding that after a Democratic caucus briefing, the party is now focused on Russia's diplomatic proposal to disarm Syria of its stockpile of nuclear weapons.

"Our focus on both sides of the aisle right now, quite honestly, is on ensuring that this is a legitimate, transparent, verifiable proposal," said Israel.

But much of the Democratic caucus, people Israel helped get elected in the last cycle, are against the president.

Asked if that lack of support stems from a distant relationship with the president, Israel said no, saying it is the shadow of Iraq that is driving Democrats' doubts on authorizing a strike against Syria.

"It has more to do with the concern that many of my colleagues had with intelligence in the prior administration," said Israel. There "is a sense that we've been down this road. We're dubious when the intelligence community tells us that there are weapons of mass destruction. Been there done that."

Moreover, Israel adds, a relationship with the president should not play a role in evaluating a vote of this nature.

"The relationship actually should be put aside when you're making decisions on whether to commit force," said Israel. "You've got to make a judgment not based on do I like this president, but do I believe the intelligence, and do I believe that his recommendation is the most appropriate course for the national security interests of this country?"

Obama's lack of support on Syria could cast a shadow on other legislative agendas, such as the upcoming debt ceiling debate.

"The issue is not whether the President of the United States has expended his political capital. The issue is whether House Republicans are willing to spend any of theirs," said Israel.

For more of this discussion with Congressman Steve Israel, D-New York, along with CNN's Dana Bash, Gloria Borger, Jessica Yellin, and Jake Tapper, click on the video above.

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