The House approved a measure Wednesday to train and arm Syrian rebels, in the first broad test of congressional sentiment about President Barack Obama‘s plans to expand U.S. military engagement in the Middle East.
The measure, which passed 273-156, was an amendment to a bill to fund the government until Dec. 11. The House passed the spending bill by a vote of 319-108.
The votes followed a six-hour debate that reflected ambivalence among lawmakers who want to stop Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, but are reluctant to restart military action in a part of the world that they thought the U.S. was leaving. Others worried that arming Syrian rebels for combat would backfire, with weapons ending up in the wrong hands and further inflaming tensions in the Middle East. Meanwhile, a set of Republicans is concerned the strategy doesn’t go far enough against the extremist group.
“We’re sort of in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R., Pa.). “Those voting on this measure, I suspect, will do so with great reluctance. Those voting no will do so with discomfort,” he said.
Mr. Obama has been calling lawmakers individually since early last week, right after Saudi Arabia agreed to host the arm-and-equip program, to persuade them to tuck authorization for the program into the must-pass stopgap spending bill.
The spending bill is a “continuing resolution” to maintain government funding at current levels from the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30 through Dec. 11. The bill also included an extension until June 30 of the Export-Import Bank, which some conservative members of the House had wanted to let lapse when its charter expires at the end of the fiscal year.
The Senate plans to take up the bill on Thursday, and it is expected to pass. A Senate Democratic aide said the strong House vote gives the measure momentum in the Senate, where lawmakers were temporarily shaken by testimony Tuesday from Gen. Martin Dempsey that he would back sending American military advisers to accompany Iraqi forces on combat missions if there was a need. That seemed to contradict Mr. Obama’s ban on using U.S. ground troops.
But the mood recovered on Wednesday after Mr. Obama said he wouldn’t authorize a ground war. Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill that the U.S. wouldn’t go it alone against Islamic State, easing additional worries within Congress that not enough was being done to build an international coalition, especially with participation from Arab nations.
moderate head choppers being armed and trained to fight the extreme head choppers who were armed and trained alongside the moderate head choppers originally and now the moderates get more money to fight the extreme choppers and what will be left behind in the vacuum? chop chop?