President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are personally lobbying members of Congress to authorize around $500 million in funding to train and arm Syrian rebels in the fight against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke in Congress Wednesday in support of funding the rebels, dismissing the potential cost. “I believe we need to train and equip Syrian rebels,” Reid said. “Going at it alone will not suffice.”
House Republicans are now debating whether to add the White House request to the pending government spending bill.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D—Mich.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R—Tenn.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Wednesday that they support arming and training the Syrian rebels.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) noted that an overwhelming majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to arm moderate elements of the Syrian opposition in May 2013. “I think the task has gotten harder in terms of determining how to do that in a way that the arms end up in the right hands,” said Kaine. “But I still think that that can be an appropriate way to deal with [ISIS] threats on the Syria side.”
Not all senators support the measure, however. A spokesperson for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he “doesn’t believe that we should fund rebels who could potentially be our enemies.”