President Obama is making calls to lawmakers on Capitol Hill urging them to support giving him authority to arm and train Syrian rebels in a vote later this week.
The White House is “gratified” by early signs of support for the president’s request, it said, but Obama will to continue to call lawmakers in the coming days.
“We’ve seen public statements from Democrats and Republicans in senior positions both in the House and the Senate indicate that they support giving the administration the necessary authority to ramp up our assistance to the Syrian opposition by training and equipping them,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “So we’re gratified by that show of bipartisan public support for this urgent priority.”
The White House is seeking explicit authority to establish a center to train and equip members of the Syrian opposition, who are battling both the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The facility, likely to be hosted in Saudi Arabia, is a key component of the president’s strategy to combat the terror network, with the administration saying it needs a competent rebel fighting force to prevent ISIS from achieving a safe haven in Syria — or the Assad regime from benefiting from airstrikes against the terror group.
House Republicans are expected to hold a Rules Committee hearing Monday evening, where they’ll determine how to move forward on both Syria authority legislation and a short-term measure to fund the government. Lawmakers could vote on separate or combined legislation as soon as Wednesday.
The White House has said it will not insist on the two items being joined together, although it prefers that approach.
“Adding to the [continuing resolution is the most logical way, as a layman,” Earnest said. “I’m not an expert in House procedure by any stretch of the imagination. But as a layman, it does seem obvious that that’s the easiest way to get this done.”
The president, vice president and top aides spent much of last week reaching out to key members of Congress to push the legislation, with administration officials holding classified briefings open to every lawmaker and top committee staff.