Congress Approves President’s Request To Arm Syrian Rebels
UPDATE: The Senate on Thursday gave final congressional approval to the President’s request to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight ISIS.
By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The House on Wednesday approved President Obama’s request to arm and train Syrian rebels in the fight against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
With significant opposition to the proposal in both parties, the vote was 273 -156.
Many Republicans argue the strategy isn’t tough enough to defeat ISIS; many Democrats worry the plan could drag the United States into another long military engagement.
The proposal would authorize the Pentagon to provide assistance to “appropriately vetted” members of the Syrian opposition and require the administration to give Congress a detailed plan for helping the rebels before that assistance could begin.
The Senate could vote as early as Thursday.
Congress is expected to debate a broader war authorization after the midterm elections.
The measure states the new authority does not include approval for “the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities…”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, didn’t rule out using ground forces, fueling fears among congressional Democrats who are worried about another long U.S. military engagement in the Mideast.
Dempsey’s remarks sent a mixed message, and on Wednesday, Obama repeated his pledge that he would not commit combat troops in the region.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi acknowledged military leaders can recommend a strategy, but told skeptical Democrats that the U.S. would not be “there to support combat troops in any of these engagements.”
Behind the scenes, she worked hard to reassure the rank and file that this is the right course of action, and Obama personally called wavering members in the House and Senate before the vote.