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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida House members divided on vote to arm Syrian rebels



WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-controlled House voted grudgingly to give the administration authority to train and arm Syrian rebels on Wednesday as President Barack Obama emphasized anew that American forces "do not and will not have a combat mission" in the struggle against Islamic State militants in either Iraq or Syria.

The 273-156 vote crossed party lines to an unusual degree in a Congress marked by near ceaseless partisanship. Top Republican and Democratic leaders backed Obama's plan seven weeks before midterm elections, while dozens of rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties opposed it.

The provision was added to spending legislation that will ensure the federal government operates normally after the Sept. 30 end of the budget year. Final approval is expected in the Senate as early as Thursday. (Full story here)

From Alex Leary, Times Washington Bureau Chief:

Florida reflected the mixed vote. Voting no were Democrats Lois Frankel, Alan Grayson and Alcee Hastings along with Republicans Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, David Jolly, Jeff Miller, Rich Nugent, Bill Posey, Tom Rooney and Ted Yoho.

"I believe the President's request falls far short of the Constitutional authorization required of the President and the responsibility of the Congress to debate the national security threat presented by ISIS," said Jolly. "I also have concerns that arming the rebels will actually result in more episodes of terror against Syrian Christians and other religious minorities." Jolly voted for the final budget measure, which included the Syria amendment, saying it was a responsibility to keep the government running.

Rooney said: “I cannot support the losing strategy of arming the so-called Syrian rebels. Although I believe ISIS clearly poses a security threat to the Middle East, and potentially to the United States itself, handcuffing our strategy by restricting kinetic activity to air power alone is insufficient. Going to war is difficult for any Commander in Chief, but if this crisis is important enough to put our men and women in harm’s way, then it should be important enough to demand a winning strategy. I don’t believe this plan is anything close to a winning strategy, and I cannot support it. Accordingly, I must also oppose the continuing resolution, which includes this language as a poison pill.” 

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, voted yes. "This amendment will allow carefully vetted and scrutinized opposition forces to be trained to fight ISIL under the direction of American Special Forces," he said. "That, in combination with the full weight of the United States Air Force executing air strikes, is an appropriate step at this juncture, given the immediate threat ISIL represents to both America and her allies. It is important to remember America will not be ‘going it alone’ – I am hopeful a robust international coalition will ensure the successful destruction of ISIL.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 6:53pm]


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