After a six-hour debate, the U.S. House approved a bipartisan measure to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State on Wednesday.
Congress adopted an amendment to the spending bill allowing the Obama administration to provide aid against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is also referred to as ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The House floor debate created unusual political coalitions in what’s been a typically partisan chamber. Many anti-war Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans opposed the legislation while lawmakers from both parties support the president’s plan to combat the terrorist group.
In Kentucky’s congressional delegation, Democrat John Yarmuth of Louisville, who opposed the 2003 Iraq War, voted in favor of the bill along with Republicans Brett Guthrie, Andy Barr and Hal Rogers.
“It remains in our country’s best interest to destroy ISIL,” Guthrie said in released statement. “This group has proven to be an incredibly dangerous and critical threat to our national security. As the leader of a global coalition, we must train and equip regional fighters to confront the threat at hand, as well as to restore peace in the region.”
Kentucky’s two other congressmen, Republicans Thomas Massie and Ed Whitfield, opposed the amendment.
Massie said it was “immoral” to attach the ISIL proposal to the spending bill because it forced lawmakers to choose it over a government shutdown.
The freshman Republican also questioned the effectiveness of supporting the Syrian rebels.
“If the goal of arming and training so-called moderate Syrian rebels is to eliminate (ISIL), the plan will not work,” Massie said in a released statement. “Military experts know this, and the president acknowledged as much five weeks ago when he stated that the idea that arming rebels would have made a difference has ‘always been a fantasy.’”
Across ideological lines, lawmakers voiced concern that an initial authorization could lead to a larger military operation. President Obama has pledged the U.S. will commit no ground troops in Iraq.
Supporters of the measure noted it will expire at the end of this year, and requires the administration to submit reports to Congress every 90 days.