House lawmakers ask for stand-alone vote on Syria

House lawmakers are pushing Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa MORE (R-Ohio) to allow a stand-alone vote in the lame-duck session on plans to train and arm Syrian rebel groups fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The 2015 defense policy bill being voted on Thursday includes a provision that would extend the program slated to expire on Dec. 11 for two years.

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But in a letter to BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa MORE on Thursday, Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) cited the plan’s “potential consequences” and said it deserves its own debate and vote.

"A matter of that importance should not be tucked into a huge NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] bill and shielded from a separate vote," they wrote in the letter, which was signed by nine other lawmakers.

"Given the importance of this decision to use American troops to train and equip so-called moderate Syrian rebels in places like Saudi Arabia, Congress has a duty to debate and vote separately on this question,” they added. “We must not abdicate our responsibility to the American people and the men and women who serve in our military."

They noted questions about the plan’s cost, effectiveness and impact on service members.

The program would train as many as 5,000 moderate Syrian fighters at locations in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to fight ISIS. Congress initially granted short-term authority in September.

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown Will we ever have another veteran as president? Bernie Sanders open to decriminalizing sex work MORE (D-Hawaii), who signed the letter, called it "absolutely unacceptable to include an open-ended policy of arming and training so-called 'moderate' Syrian rebels in the NDAA without any serious public debate or a stand-alone vote." 

"By continuing to funnel weapons to rebels in Syria, whose vetting and loyalties are questionable and untested, we face the likely outcome of our weapons falling into the hands of our enemies yet again, to be used against Americans and innocent civilians," said Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who voted against the plan in September. 

The House is set to vote on the defense bill Thursday afternoon without allowing amendments.

The letter was also signed by Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Jeff FortenberryJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FortenberryHouse Appropriations passes defense bill that would limit funds for border wall, pull US support from Yemen war Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Nearly 40 percent of species worldwide face extinction — unless we reverse wildlife crisis MORE (R-Neb.), John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiHouse panel shoots down funding, deployment of low-yield nukes in defense bill Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland House panel votes to restrict possible changes to Air Force One design MORE (D-Calif.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).