House Votes to Train Syrian Rebels
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 273-156 to authorize President Barack Obama’s plan to train and arm rebels fighting both Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL or simply IS). Both support and opposition was bipartisan: 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats backed the measure, and 71 Republicans and 85 Democrats were against it. Speaker of the House John Boehner released a statement saying, “By authorizing the Department of Defense to help train and equip the Syrian opposition, this measure represents an important, initial step forward in taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”
The amendment allows the United States to train the Syrian rebels to defend against ISIL attacks on the Syrian population and strengthen their hold on their own territory. It also contains the more general provision that the rebels may defend the United States and allies against “the threats posed by terrorists in Syria”. Finally, it would allow the training of the rebels so they can foster “the conditions for a negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Syria.”
According to Politico, those who voted against the amendment were concerned that the United States would be led into a new war in the Middle East. They will have another opportunity to convince their colleagues since the training authorization must be reapproved in mid-December.
The vote to authorize the training of Syrian rebels was on an amendment to a temporary spending bill that would keep the government funded through the middle of December. This continuing resolution passed 319-108, with a little more than 50 Members from each party dissenting.
The Senate will vote on the House’s continuing resolution later today. According to National Journal, it should pass the Upper Chamber.
Will Congress Allow Internet Taxes?
In addition to the Syrian amendment, the continuing resolution contained an item that most people never have considered, but would be glad it’s there: a ban on taxes to accessing the Internet. Back in 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a law that temporarily prohibited states from instituting taxes on those who secured Internet access. It has been renewed several times, including most recently in the continuing resolution that just passed the House. It will have to be renewed again in December, and some would like to make it permanent. If the ban does not get reapproved, states could start levying fees on the Internet. Earlier this year, a group of Senators introduced a bill to put the ban in place for 10 years, but the legislation also included provisions strengthening the states’ abilities to tax online purchases, which has been difficult in the past since online retailers’ facilities are often out-of-state. According to National Journal, supporters of the Internet sales taxes see the upcoming lame duck session as an opportunity to get the legislation passed.
Ukrainian President Asks Congress For Military Help
On Thursday, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine addressed Congress to ask for military aid in the country’s ongoing struggle against Russian aggression. He said the conflict not only affects Ukraine, but also that “it is Europe’s and it is America’s war, too. It is a war for the free world.”
The White House has announced a $53 million aid package for Ukraine, comprised of $46 million for security and $7 million for humanitarian assistance. That includes body armor, night vision goggles, sleeping mats, and meals ready-to-eat, but no weapons. President Poroshenko was grateful for the aid but asked Congress for more. “Please understand me correctly,” he said. “Blankets, night-vision goggles are important, but one cannot win the war with blankets.”
President Poroshenko’s speech drew bipartisan praise from Members of the House and Senate, and many support sending lethal aid to Ukraine. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Ranking Member Bob Corker of Tennessee introduced legislation Wednesday, which authorizes $350 million for military and non-military aid, including the requested weapons, and provides increased sanctions against Russia. Chairman Menendez stated that “a slap on the wrist will not deter future provocations,” adding, “In the face of Russian aggression, Ukraine needs our steadfast and determined support, not an ambiguous response.” Senator Corker called the previous assistance provided by the White House “embarrassing.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio also voiced his support for President Poroshenko and his citizens, saying, “Today, Vladimir Putin and the world saw Republicans and Democrats stand in unity with President Poroshenko and his people’s aspirations for freedom, democracy, and economic opportunity.” He added that it was his privilege to “pledge to him personally that the House will continue to lead the effort to help his people.” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California also released a statement on Thursday, saying, “Now, America must stand with Ukraine in defense of freedom in the world.”
And for our latest post: Perry’s Veto Case: A New–and Potentially Dangerous–Form of Judicial Review?