House GOP Rebuffs Obama’s Call To Train Syrian Opposition

President Barack Obama listens to French President Francois Hollande during the G-8 summit at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. The final day of the G-8 summit of we... President Barack Obama listens to French President Francois Hollande during the G-8 summit at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. The final day of the G-8 summit of wealthy nations is ending with discussions on globe-trotting corporate tax dodgers, a lunch with leaders from Africa, and suspense over whether Russia and Western leaders can avoid diplomatic fireworks over their deadlock on Syria’s civil war. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) MORE LESS
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans have rebuffed President Barack Obama’s request for explicit approval to train and equip Syrian rebels battling forces seeking creation of an Islamic State and to spend up to $2 billion stabilizing the situation in Ukraine, Iraq and other hotspots, officials said Wednesday.

Despite the setback, administration officials worked to win the support of reluctant lawmakers in the hours before Obama was delivering a nationally television speech to the nation laying out his strategy for combating militants with Islamic State group.

Officials said Obama made two specific requests of lawmakers as they drafted a sweeping spending bill to keep the government open past the end of the Sept. 30 budget year. Neither was included in the bill that the House is scheduled to vote on Thursday, but the situation remained fluid.

The White House request asks for “authority to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian armed opposition to help defend the Syrian people from attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Syrian regime” as well as stabilize areas in Syria under rebel control.

Obama pressed leaders for the authority in a private meeting Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Congress should support the authorization.

“It’s clear to me that we need to train and equip Syrian rebels and other groups in the Middle East that need some help,” Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday. “The president has tried to get that from us and we should give it to him. That’s one way of helping to build an international coalition.”

Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said the administration is sending representatives to Capitol Hill Wednesday to press the case for training and equipping the Syria opposition. He said it is still unlikely to be added to the stopgap funding bill.

The request is expected to be discussed in a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Thursday. A senior GOP aide said Republican leaders were keeping an open mind on the subject but noted that lawmakers in both parties have expressed reservations about the administration’s lack of follow-up details to earlier requests for assistance to Syrian rebels. The aide insisted on speaking only on grounds of anonymity to discuss internal party deliberations.

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said Reid may opt to press the idea as legislation separate from the government-wide funding bill. That’s also an option for the GOP-led House.

Republicans also have rejected a companion request to direct $2 billion in unspent funding for overseas military operations to “respond to emergent regional crises” in ” Eastern Europe, support ongoing operations in Iraq, and respond to other potential crises” without harming the Pentagon operations or readiness. The request arrived only Friday and was not issued publicly despite its $2 billion price tag.

A spokesman for top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky noted that three separate Senate Committees have adopted legislation including authorization for training and equipping “vetted” elements of the Syrian opposition but that Reid, who sets the Senate agenda, has not called any of them up for a vote.

There is bipartisan anxiety about helping Syrian rebels, in part because of the potential to add instability to a region already in upheaval.

In a speech in May at the U.S. Military Academy, Obama called for a $5 billion counterterrorism fund, but the proposal drew resistance on Capitol Hill as the administration was unable to spell out how the money would be spent.

The $5 billion request includes $500 million to arm moderate rebels in Syria battling the forces of President Bashar Assad.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Latest News

Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for mjv135 mjv135 says:

    They’re Republicans, of course they’re going to say no.

  2. Avatar for dd40 dd40 says:

    Look at it this way. If Obama was President when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, Pubbies would have voted against declaring war on Japan.

  3. Avatar for mantan mantan says:

    Not is gut experience, you wordsmith, you!

  4. Avatar for clk clk says:

    Isn’t that what McCain wanted to do?

  5. Avatar for xian xian says:

    they hate it when he calls their bluff and make them go on the record

Continue the discussion at

3 more replies


Avatar for system1 Avatar for clk Avatar for mjv135 Avatar for Barcolounger Avatar for mantan Avatar for xian Avatar for dd40 Avatar for johnrm

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: