The US House has signed off on granting the president authorities to train and arm Syrian opposition forces — while restricting the involvement of American ground forces.
The chamber approved a measure Wednesday afternoon, 273-156, that would, if the Senate follows suit, clear the White House to begin preparing the rebels to fight the Islamic State (IS). The authorization came in the form of an amendment to a $1 trillion stopgap government spending bill.
The vote was a rarity in the partisan lower chamber: It passed with significant numbers of Republican and Democratic votes.
President Barack Obama last week, prior to a prime time television address on his plan to fight IS, asked senior lawmakers to include the authorization in the must-pass continuing resolution (CR) that is needed to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
The House was set to take the first swing at the CR, and its GOP leadership ultimately decided to amend the White House’s train-and-equip language to include one major restriction and several provisions aimed at keeping lawmakers in the loop.
Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., took charge of writing the House train-and-equip amendment.
“We’ve done a lot of these kinds of authorizations,” a senior House aide told CongressWatch on Monday. “We needed to get the authorization language into a shape where, if it is passed, commanders could actually execute it.”
McKeon and HASC staff were cognizant of members’ worries about the possibility that US ground forces would be sent into combat in Iraq — or even Syria.