House Votes To Arm Syrian Rebels And Avert A Government Shutdown

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September 17, 2014 5:33 p.m.

In back-to-back votes, the House of Representatives easily passed legislation on Wednesday to authorize the Obama administration to arm Syrian rebels to fight ISIS and to keep the federal government funded through Dec. 11.

The final vote was 319-108.

The Syria language was tacked on as an amendment to the “continuing resolution” to keep money flowing to federal agencies beyond Sept. 30. It was brought up at the urging of President Barack Obama, who last week unveiled a strategy to “destroy” the Islamic militant group which recently beheaded two American journalists captured in Syria.

The vote on the Syria amendment was 273-156. Seventy-one Republicans and 85 Democrats voted no.

Some progressives and anti-war libertarians voiced concerns about the idea, warning that American-provided weapons to the “moderate” opposition could fall into the hands of ISIS and potentially be used against the United States.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) supported the Syria measure. In response to a TPM about the concerns, she stressed that the opposition groups who receive U.S. weapons would be thoroughly vetted first, and that the proposal would not authorize any American combat troops in the region.

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“The vetting is a very important part of this,” Pelosi said before the vote. “The program will train vetted fighters outside of Syria to defend the Syrian people against the tyranny of ISIS. … We have the capacity to vet and to identify. It’s a challenge, there’s no question.”

The legislation also extends funding for Export-Import Bank through June 30, 2015, a point of contention for conservative activists, who had pushed to shutter the trade bank.

Prior to the final vote, House Republicans rejected a Democratic “motion to recommit” which would have added a swath of progressive bills onto the CR — equal pay for women, a minimum wage hike, student loan reforms, stripping contracts from businesses that move jobs overseas and extending the Export-Import Bank for 7 years. The motion went down by a 199-228 margin.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to approve it and send it to Obama for his signature. If so, that would take a government shutdown off the table until after the midterm elections.

“We’re on track to pass it,” said a senior Democratic Senate aide. “Should go smoothly here.”

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