The House of Representatives on Wednesday abruptly postponed a vote on a must-pass spending bill after a last-minute request from the White House to include a provision authorizing the administration to train and arm moderate factions of rebels in Syria.
Kevin McCarthy announced on the House floor Wednesday afternoon that the House would no longer consider the continuing resolution on Thursday. The resolution must be passed by Sept. 30 to keep the government from shutting down.
As part of President Barack Obama’s plan to confront the group calling itself the Islamic State (also ISIS or ISIL), the administration is requesting that Congress include so-called “Title 10” authority under the United States code. It would allow the U.S. to ramp up assistance to moderate groups fighting both ISIS and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in the three-year Syrian civil war.
The administration is on a full-court press with members of Congress on Wednesday. A senior administration official said both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were making calls to members, and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco is on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers. The administration believes its request needs to be tackled now and that the continuing resolution is the best mechanism by which to complete it.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky), whose committee the spending bill runs through, told reporters he received a call from Obama on Tuesday evening. He said he personally thought it should be voted on separately from the continuing resolution. It’s not yet clear if such a request from Obama could pass through either the House or Senate, given the bipartisan concern that any arms provided to moderate rebels could fall into the wrong hands.
Democratic leaders in Congress expressed support for granting the Title 10 authority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday he believes Congress should give Obama the authority.
“The president has tried to get that from us and we should give it to him,” Reid said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “That is one way of helping build an international coalition. Congress should do it.”
Obama told congressional leaders in a meeting at the White House on Tuesday that he has the authority he needs to take action against ISIS, but said he would welcome any congressional steps that would “aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat.”
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