Senate approves Obama's Syria plan in funding bill

USA Today

by Susan Davis

WASHINGTON – The Senate approved Thursday the House-passed resolution authorizing the arming and training of Syrian rebels in language tucked in to a short-term funding bill to keep the federal government open. Both the authorization and the funding sunset on Dec. 11, ensuring that Congress will revisit both issues when lawmakers return for a lame-duck session.

The measure now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature. He has lauded congressional action as a key step toward his stated goal of dismantling the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The measure was approved 78-22 with support from both parties, but 12 Republicans opposed it as did ten Democrats.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the bipartisan vote would send a message to the world. “What an important statement that will be to the very countries that we are seeking to help rid themselves of this cancer,” he said.

Some of Obama’s most vocal Republican foreign policy foes, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, supported the resolution. “To my colleagues who worry about the people we trained with the arms falling into wrong hands, I would say there’s nothing we can do in this area without some risk,” Graham said.

Resistance among Democrats in conservative-leaning states was notable. Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia all opposed the measure. Tester cited a shared concern that while the immediate bill required no new war funding, it is unlikely that will continue to be the case.

“You can say this bill contains no specific dollar amount, but that is what this administration is going to spend and that is just a start,” Tester said. “Will our grandchildren once again have to pay for our choices today?”

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