The House of Representatives passed an amendment on Wednesday that will give President Barack Obama the authority to arm and train moderate elements of the Syrian opposition, a key part of the president’s strategy for confronting the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL).
In a twist from typical House votes, more Democrats than Republicans bucked Obama on the vote. The amendment gives Obama so-called “Title 10” authority under the U.S. code with respect to arming certain Syrian rebels.
“Today’s vote is another step closer to having the authorization to train and equip vetted elements of the moderate Syrian opposition so they can defend themselves against, and ultimately push back on, ISIL forces in Syria, while creating the conditions for the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all,” Obama said in a statement.
The final vote passed by a 273-156 margin. Here’s the partisan breakdown:
• Republicans: 159 yes, 71 no
• Democrats: 114 yes, 85 no
The House was subsequently passed legislation into which the amendment would be inserted — the continuing resolution to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30. It avoids a shutdown and keeps the government funded through Dec. 11.
“By authorizing the Department of Defence to help train and equip the Syrian opposition, this measure represents an important, initial step forward in taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” House Speaker John Boehner said. “ISIL represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe.”
The vote cemented an important part of Obama’s strategy to “degrade and destroy” ISIS in Syria, since it involves partnering US airstrikes with allied forces on the ground. Obama emphasised Wednesday that no American troops would be dragged into a ground war in either Iraq or Syria in the fight against ISIS.
The vote on the measure followed two days of at-times intense debate on the House floor. Unusual factions of more liberal, dovish Democrats and isolationist-leaning Republicans opposed the amendment, while leadership in both parties urged their members to support it.
The entire spending bill will now move onto the Senate, where it is expected to pass. The White House hinted Wednesday that Obama would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
“The administration appreciates the strong bipartisan effort that produced the amendment that provides authorities that are essential in equipping the administration with the tools necessary to provide a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy to address the growing threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy.
Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET with comment from the president.
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