Now that President Obama has made his case for military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, it falls to those in Congress who have worked to stymie his agenda at every turn to round up support for a key piece of his strategy.
House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants will ask their restive conference to vote to allow the president to arm pro-Western Syrian rebels, potentially as a part of a government funding bill. And many of those Boehner will be asking are still smarting over elements of the leaders’ must-pass spending bill to keep government from shutting down Oct. 1.
Leaders face defections on both sides. Democrats are quietly threatening to withhold support if the president’s desired authorization is not included in that continuing resolution, and conservative Republicans are unhappy that the spending measure separately includes a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and extends spending authority into December rather than into the new year.
This adds up to yet another test for Boehner, new Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, just a month after they barely salvaged a controversial border-spending measure. This time, the leaders will have to thread the needle, finding the right combination of Democratic and Republican votes that can pass a measure to simultaneously allow the government to stay open, commence Obama’s plan to defeat ISIS, and reauthorize a lending institution seen as an important economic engine in many members’ districts.
The House Republican Conference plans to meet Thursday morning, and leaders will have their first real chance to see how warm members are toward the president’s proposal. Afterward, all House members will huddle for a classified briefing, during which officials will lay out more detailed elements of the president’s plan to defeat ISIS.
“I think I speak for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle when I say t