With the vote coming tomorrow, House Democrats said they are increasingly anxious about a proposal to authorize President Obama to arm and train Syrian rebels with the hope they will combat the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists consolidating power in the region.
For instance, House Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-CA), a Pelosi ally and party loyalist who had just explained that a top Obama aide had spent nearly the last two hours pushing Democrats to embrace the measure, said he hadn’t decided whether to decide it at a scheduled press conference after the meeting.
“I have to take a close look at it. If it’s narrowly tailored to address what the president said then I likely would support it, but again, I’m one of those who wants to make sure that this is very discretely defined, because I do believe that you could easily start to have mission creep in much of this,” Becerra said.
“I would like to make sure it’s clear what we will do, it’s clear that those we profess to be able to train will do, and it’s important to know that we’re going to be kept abreast of how this proceeds if it does indeed pass,” he added.
Meanwhile, liberals who last week seemed to be sticking with their party’s president were growing increasingly restive.
“The more I get briefed the more concerned I am,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, explaining why he thought he could not support the measure.
McGovern called Obama’s assertion he has authority to conduct air strikes under a 2001 law “ludicrous” and said the administration’s plan – that had just been detailed by Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken – didn’t make sense.
“I don’t get it, I don’t understand the end game, I don’t understand how this is supposed to work,” McGovern said.
“I have huge concerns. I have the same concerns as everyone else has. I’ll stipulate that ISIL is bad, they’re a terrorist organization that needs to be stopped. I just don’t know how we go about doing that without us doing the whole lift. I think that’s my concern,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA).
House Democrats are convening again at 4pm for a classified session on the topic in the Capitol.
Although the seven-page amendment authorizing the arming of Syrian rebels had been introduced last night, and the president’s proposal has been known since last week, the vast majority of Democrats questioned about whether they will vote for it said they hadn’t decided.
Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary Miller (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Diana DeGette (D-OR), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Gene Green (D-TX), Ron Kind (D-WI), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Ami Bera (D-CA), and Rosa DeLauro (D-CA) all said they were undecided, for instance.
“Oh, there’s a lot more talking to do before that vote occurs,” DeLauro said.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a key liberal, hinted that she will rally opposition against the proposal. “I have many concerns and you’ll hear them when I’m on the floor,” she said.
But Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said he is supporting it, and Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Jim Moran (D-VA) reiterated their support.