GOP divided on Obama’s Syria request

Rank-and-file House Republicans were divided Wednesday over a new sticking point in talks to prevent a government shutdown: whether to include authorization for President Obama to arm and train Syrian rebels.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersBottom line Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE (R-Ky.) has made it clear he wants the Syria provision voted on separately from the continuing resolution or CR that would keep the government open through Dec. 11.

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But other members of the GOP conference suggested they would back the Syria language if it was tied to the funding bill.

The division led GOP leaders to delay a Thursday vote on the stopgap funding measure until next week, to give their members time to watch Obama’s prime-time address on the threat from the Islamic militant group known as ISIS, and to find some kind of consensus around the issue, aides said. House Republicans will huddle at 9 a.m. Thursday morning to plot a way forward.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, suggested the delay will give leadership more time to drum up support for a funding bill with the Syria language.

“Whether we pass it as a stand-alone or in the CR, it needs to get done. But I would support it in the CR,” said Kinzinger, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee “It’s just an open and honest way of saying this is what we’re gonna be spending. And I would hope Congress would go along with that as well.”

But Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) said the Syria provision should be taken up apart from the funding bill.

“I personally don’t like CRs anyway; I don’t like to load them up” with extraneous items, Gibbs said. “I think there is support in Congress to go after ISIS wherever they’re at.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenEx-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company Republican Salazar seeks rematch with Shalala in key Miami House district MORE (R-Fla.), who chairs the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, said she also backed Rogers’s position. Stand-alone Syria legislation, she said, would have the support of the GOP conference.

“Some of our members are more inclined to vote for a cleaner CR. When we start adding more to it, it’s a different whip count and it muddies it all up,” Ros-Lehtinen told The Hill.

“We had said we are gonna do these five things in the CR and we’re not going to add anything to it,” she continued. “Yes, [ISIS] is an urgent matter, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be dealt with as a separate issue.”

A bill to keep the government funded through mid-December had been on track for a vote in the House on Thursday. The so-called “clean,” policy-rider-free bill included a short-term extension for the Export-Import Bank and money to combat the Ebola outbreak. 

But a last-minute White House request to give Obama the authority to arm Syrian rebels threw a wrench in those plans. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on the House floor the vote would be delayed until next week "given the severity of the situation and the need for all members to properly evaluate the president's request."

“Republicans have suggested they hear what the president’s plan is before they fund it,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a member of the Armed Services Committee. “And I’m not sure they should be criticized for that rather insightful conclusion.” 

Cristina Marcos contributed to this story.