House OKs Arms For Syrian Rebels To Combat ISIS
CBS News – The House voted Wednesday to give President Obama the authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The vote was bipartisan, passing with 273 votes in favor and 156 votes against. There were 85 Democrats who voted against the measure, and 71 Republicans.
Opposition to the plan arose from factions in both parties with Democrats in opposition expressing concern about whether the U.S. can rely on the rebels and some Republicans arguing Mr. Obama isn’t doing enough to tackle ISIS and should consider sending in U.S. ground troops.
“We don’t know if somewhere down the line they will turn our guns right back on us,” Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-California, said on the House floor Wednesday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, backed the request to train rebels but said in no uncertain terms Wednesday, “I will not vote for combat troops to be engaged in war.”
The authorization’s language is careful to indicate that it does not allow the use of U.S. forces in Syria, a matter that has not been debated by Congress.
“We don’t want anyone to construe this specific authorization as a broader authority for the use of military force, simple as that. And if we need to readdress this issue, we certainly will,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday.
Boehner, though he said the U.S. needs to do more to stop the militants, has backed Mr. Obama’s request from the start.
“I frankly think the president’s request is a sound one. I think there’s a lot more that we need to be doing, but there’s no reason for us not to do what the president has asked us to do,” he said.
But, Boehner added, “If our goal here is to destroy [ISIS], we’ve got to do more than train a few folks in Syria and train a few folks in Iraq and dropping bombs. I just don’t know it’s enough to achieve the objective the president outlined.”
Mr. Obama made the request of Congress in a speech to the nation last week where he vowed to strike at the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)“wherever they exist.” He will also be expanding a campaign of airstrikes against the group into Syria, but believes he has the authority necessary to do that without additional permission from Congress.
The authorization, which is part of a larger spending bill Congress must pass to keep the government running until Dec. 11, now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass with bipartisan support.
It authorizes the secretaries of defense and state to equip vetted members of the Syrian opposition who are fighting both Syrian President Bashar Assad and ISIS. There is no additional money given to the effort, but the Defense Department is granted permission to shift around existing funds to meet their needs.