The House voted grudgingly today to give the US military the authority to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting ISIS. The 273-156 vote crossed party lines to an unusual degree in a Congress marked by near ceaseless partisanship. Top Republican and Democratic leaders backed the plan seven weeks before midterm elections, while dozens of rank and file lawmakers in both parties opposed it. The provision was added to spending legislation that will assure the federal government operates normally after the Sept. 30 end of the budget year. Final approval is expected in the Senate as early as tomorrow. The legislation grants Obama authority only until Dec. 11, giving Congress plenty of time to return to the issue in a post-election session set to begin in mid-November.
Even supporters of the plan found little to trumpet. "This is the best of a long list of bad options," said Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. The vote came after President Obama today again emphasized that no "combat mission" will result. The president's remarks and similar comments by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi seemed designed to reassure liberal lawmakers that the new military mission would be limited. Across the political aisle from the president and Pelosi, Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy swung behind the plan. Yet many members of their rank and file expressed concerns that it would be insufficient to defeat militants who have overrun parts of Syria and Iraq and beheaded two American journalists. (Read more House of Representatives stories.)