$500M for Syrian Rebels? Reid Wants Bipartisan Support, But One Dem Says No

Susan Jones | September 12, 2014 | 7:48am EDT
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama is not asking Congress for authorization to send the U.S. military into Syria and Iraq, but he is asking for money ($500 million) to train and equip the so-called moderate Syrian rebels.

On Thursday, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects the House to send over that funding legislation (either stand-alone or part of a continuing resolution), so Congress can pass it "before the end of next week."

But at least one Democrat says he'll vote against any continuing resolution that includes funding for the Syrian rebels.

"Right now, the administration is just asking for authorization to move ahead with an arm-and-equip mission attached to the continuing resolution," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters on Thursday. "I would not support the arm-and-equip request...if it was attached to the CR," he said.

Murphy said the strategy to take on ISIS doesn't mean the U.S. has to get involved in the Syrian civil war: "And the potential consequences of getting it wrong are pretty catastrophic," he warned. "There's a chance that the rebels could link up with extremist groups in order to fight (Syrian dictator) Assad; there's also the possibility to create space for Assad to get even stronger."

Murphy said he raised those concerns at Thursday's closed-door Senate briefing with administration officials. "I didn't hear anything to change my mind."

(Update: A second Connecticut Democrat, Rep. Jim Himes, said on Friday that he would also vote against $500 million in funding to train the Syrian rebels.)

Sen. Reid on Thursday said he's "confident" that members will put aside their political differences and "work together to give this administration the tools it needs to meet ISIS head-on."

"The proposal that the president has given to the American people requires immediate congressional action, in granting the administration the authority to equip and train Syrian rebels under Title 10 to fight ISIS. Of course, the support for training under Title 10 to train and equip rebels is critical to building this international coalition that is so necessary."

Reid said the total Title 10 request is $500 million dollars, or half a billion. "That's the only request we've had," he said.

"I expect this proposal to pass Congress before the end of next week," Reid continued. Our colleagues in the House are currently discussing exactly how we're going to proceed. I expect this proposal to pass congress with broad, bipartisan support."

("We ought to give the president what he's asking for," House Speaker John Boehner  said on Thursday.)

According to Reid, "Matters like this are no place for political posturing. Now is the time for us to come together, to speak with one voice, and tell the terrorists, you cannot hide -- you've committed horrific acts that threatened the security of the United States and our allies, and we will find you and we will destroy you."

Reid brushed aside a question on whether President Obama should seek specific authorization for the overall military mission instead of relying on an authority granted in 2001:

"The president said last night that he has authority to do bombing as he's doing now in Iraq and in Syria," Reid said.

"We're at the beginning of a little trek that's going to be taken, and we have to do it right. We can't -- I repeat the word rash. We have to be deliberate in what we do."

Reid noted that after Thursday's briefings, there will hearings next week; in the meantime, Iraq is forming a new government and Secretary of State Kerry is putting together a coalition.

"Let's just not rush into things. We have a very short outline of things that we must accomplish, and that can only be accomplished if we work together as a nation."

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