House passes bill authorizing Obama to train Syria's "moderate" rebels, with most Republicans voting yes

The plan at first was to attach the authorization to the new spending bill, just in case some critical mass of Republicans was thinking of voting no. They might prefer to shoot down O’s Syria strategy, the theory went, but they wouldn’t dare do it right before the midterms if it meant another shutdown.

In the end, though, Boehner decided to make the authorization a standalone bill. The votes were there and it wasn’t close: 273-156. Among those voting yes was John Boehner.

The House measure requires the Defense Department and State Department to report to Congress 15 days before putting its proposal into effect and demonstrate how it would work.

Every 90 days afterward, the Defense Department would have to provide information on vetting of Syrian rebels who receive help, in an effort to ensure that U.S. equipment doesn’t fall into terrorists’ hands.

The authority to equip and train Syrian rebels would continue until the government spending bill expires. Funds for equipping and training the Syrian rebels would come from Defense Department money contained in the measure. The training would take place in Saudi Arabia or Jordan.

Here’s the roll. Obama ended up getting many more Republican votes than Democratic ones (159 versus 114), including Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Paul Ryan. It was tea partiers like Justin Amash, Michele Bachmann, and Louie Gohmert who ended up in the opposition. Truth be told, though, no faction within the House is keen on O’s train-the-rebels strategy; this resolution, in fact, will expire on December 11th, the same day that the new continuing resolution would expire. What the two sides are doing here is simply punting the issue until after the midterms, when the GOP won’t have to worry about any electoral blowback if they try to block O on a war effort that’s surprisingly popular for the moment.

Are they thinking of blocking him during the lame-duck session? Yeah, maybe:

Cruz also panned the president’s plan to arm Syrian rebels. “I do not support arming the rebels in Syria, because the administration has presented no coherent plan for distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys,” he said, noting that the Islamic State is a rebel group itself. “Every time I have pressed the administration in both open hearings and classified hearings, as to how they would distinguish the good guys from the bad guys, the administration has failed to have an answer that makes any sense.”

The Pentagon wants money to train and equip 5,000 rebels. How a force that small is going to roll back a force like ISIS, which may already include more than 30,000 men with more coming every day, no one seems to know. Given how strong support is for hitting ISIS among GOP voters, though, I assume any Republican attempt to stop Obama’s plan for arming the rebels will be balanced with a proposal to grant him broad power to attack the jihadis from the air and maybe even the ground. That’ll be a big test for Democrats: If Boehner can round up, say, 120 Republicans willing to vote yes on a resolution that’s scrupulously vague about whether O can or should send in U.S. combat troops, could Pelosi deliver 100 Democrats for that? But maybe Boehner can’t pull that off. Said one Republican aide to BuzzFeed about the prospects for a new AUMF in the lame-duck session, “If he gives amnesty to five million illegal immigrants after the election, it’s going to be a lot harder.”

Here’s Rand Paul during today’s Senate hearings trying to get Kerry to explain this “moderates for the win!” strategy in Syria. Oh, and remember how Dems were trying to freak out their base a few weeks ago with warnings that House Republicans might force another shutdown before the midterms? Well, the vote on funding the government through mid-December was held today after the one on Syria. Result: 319-108. Fully 179 Republican voted yes.