A total of 85 House Democrats, primarily anti-war liberals, voted Wednesday against the proposal to arm Syrian rebels against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The majority of the Democratic caucus, 114 members total, joined 159 Republicans to pass the amendment. But an unusual coalition of nearly an equal number of Democrats (85) and Republicans (71) opposed President Obama’s proposal, which was voted on as an amendment to a stopgap funding bill to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Several centrist Democrats in tough reelection races voted in favor of arming the rebels, including Reps. Ron Barber (Ariz.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Raul Ruiz (Calif.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.). Rep. Gary Peters (Mich.), who is a Democratic candidate for Senate, also voted yes.
Other Democrats, such Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), voted no because they believe that Congress should vote on a full authorization of military force against ISIS instead of a narrow measure considered as part of a short-term spending bill.
Still other Democrats, such as Reps. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) and Jackie Speier (Calif.), said they are wary of becoming involved in another military conflict in the Middle East.
“We should be frank with ourselves and the American people. We are not facing a limited engagement, but a new war that will only escalate,” Speier said.
Most of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for the amendment, but Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and others including Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) voted against it.
Members opposed to the measure formed an unusual set of bedfellows consisting of liberals and far-right conservatives rarely seen casting the same vote on a major issue.
A sizable group of libertarian Republicans that included Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Walter Jones (N.C.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.) opposed the amendment.