President Barack Obama’s urgent request that Congress authorize the arming and training of Syrian rebels is scrambling delicate plans on Capitol Hill less that two months before the midterm elections.
This isn’t the quick and clean September Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were hoping for.
The glide path toward avoiding a government shutdown is suddenly more complicated — at least temporarily. House Republicans delayed the consideration of their government-funding bill, which was expected to get a vote on Thursday, to consider Obama’s request.
The House isn’t expected to vote until Friday at the earliest. But it might not vote until next week, giving lawmakers a weekend at home to hear whether their constituents want to openly ship U.S.-made weapons to Syria — a program that has been underway covertly for almost a year.
House Republicans will meet Thursday morning to debate Obama’s proposal, and they will be forced to confront the wide chasm between their pro-defense hawks and isolationist libertarians — an internal GOP divide that’s simmered beneath the surface for several years.
The debate is reinjecting the “War on Terror” into the political dialogue, a topic that’s been in the background for a few election cycles. A vote for arming the Syrian rebels — a risky proposition, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say — would give Congress responsibility over the outcome.