House Keeps Government Open, Arms Syrian Rebels

Amanda Muñoz
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Posted: Sep 17, 2014 7:00 PM
House Keeps Government Open, Arms Syrian Rebels

The continuing resolution to fund the government through December 11th passed easily in the House of Representatives this evening with a vote of 319-108 and is now headed to the Senate. Per Fox News' Chad Pergram, 53 Republicans and 55 Democrats voted down the measure, which also authorizes the president to train and arm “vetted,” moderate Syrian opposition for the purpose of providing ground troops in the war against ISIS.

While many members, both in the House and Senate, have taken this week to voice their opinions and concerns on the current course of U.S. involvement in a tumultuous Middle East, it seemed likely that the House would find the numbers to support the president’s request that Congress weigh in on immediate action.

Even Speaker Boehner cast his vote on Wednesday - a rare, but meaningful and symbolic, act for Speakers of the House. Boehner said this in a statement released shortly after passage:

"By authorizing the Department of Defense to help train and equip the Syrian opposition, this measure represents an important, initial step forward in taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe.

"This year, the House worked methodically to pass seven annual appropriations bills. Senate Democrats didn’t even bother – they passed zero. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of inaction we’ve also seen from them on more than 40 House-passed jobs bills. This bill preserves previous spending reductions and keep the government running at current levels past the end of this month. And importantly, it ensures the ban on internet access taxes does not expire on November 1. I urge the Senate to act on it quickly."

Beginning Tuesday, representatives spent six hours debating the “Train & Equip” amendment, which was introduced earlier this week by Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA).

Fellow Californian and newly-elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke briefly on the House Floor this afternoon in support of the provision, saying in part:

“Voting against this request would send a terrible message that America is unwilling to stand with those who are already fighting a common enemy, and confirm the views of many in the region that America is but a paper tiger…Congress must maintain a central role. We must conduct oversight to ensure this program is managed effectively. Under the Leadership of Chairman McKeon, we have taken the President’s original request and have added substantial oversight provisions to ensure this program is properly and carefully managed. Congress must also push the President to craft a comprehensive strategy that recognizes the inescapable reality that ISIL is but a symptom of a broader terrorist threat.

"…A president who has made ending the war on terrorism the central focus of his foreign policy must now change. He must now make winning the war a priority.”

In addition, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) applauded the passage, saying, “We face a great and growing threat from ISIL. Never has a terrorist organization controlled so much territory, cash, or weapons. This measure gives the Syrian opposition what they desperately need – training and equipment – as they continue to risk their lives to combat ISIL terrorists as well as the Assad regime. With greater U.S. training and supplies, they’ll be bolstered. And as an ultimate boost, this force would be supported by U.S. and coalition airpower, without a combat role for U.S. ground forces. This training and equipment would put strong backing into a fighting force – which will be needed to confront and defeat ISIL. If we do not act, the threat will continue to grow.”

Members of the House will continue to investigate the administration’s plan of action for the remainder of the week. Tomorrow, Secretary Kerry and Defense Secretary Hagel will testify separately in front of the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees.