Obama Lobbying for Authority to Equip Syrian Rebels (Updated) (Video)
Updated 2:54 p.m. | Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is backing President Barack Obama’s renewed push for authority to train and equip Syrian rebels as part of his plan to take on the Islamic State, as the president himself is lobbying lawmakers to act before heading home.
Reid called on Congress to approve so-called “Title 10” authority, which would allow the U.S. to train and equip rebels in Syria and others who are fighting ISIS.
“The president has tried to get that from us and we should give it to him,” Reid said. “That is one way of helping build an international coalition.”
Obama adviser Lisa Monaco is on the Hill lobbying, and the president and the Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are making calls to members pushing to add the authority.
Reid also said he believes Obama otherwise already has the authority he needs to take on ISIS, and questioned a push for a new authorization to use military force.
“We should be learning from our past mistakes, not repeating them,” Reid said, referring to the invasion of Iraq.
“Airstrikes, strategic use of drones, and, of course, covert action are the most effective way to take out ISIS without committing troops,” Reid said.
Reid’s comments come as Obama is scheduled to address the nation Wednesday evening on the ISIS crisis and after Reid, and other Congressional leaders met with Obama Tuesday to discuss the matter.
He urged critics to hold back until after Obama’s speech.
“Let’s allow him to speak to our country, to our fellow citizens, and lay out his plan,” Reid said. “It’s absolutely critical that the American people and Congress hear directly from the president of the United States.”
The Senate is also scheduled to receive a classified briefing on the issue Thursday.
Reid called out House Republicans for having former Vice President Dick Cheney address the conference on Tuesday.
“There are people here in Congress who are taking advice from Dick Cheney,” Reid said. “He was here yesterday. I think they better be very careful with the advice they take from Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney is more responsible than anyone else for the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the country – the invasion of Iraq. Almost 6,000 dead Americans, tens of thousands wounded.”
Reid voted in 2002 to give Bush authorization to go into Iraq, but has since come to regret it.
“Was that war necessary? In hindsight, it appears to me, that it really wasn’t,” Reid said. “Not only have we lost thousands of American lives, but it destabilized the whole Middle East and…hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blamed Obama’s foreign policy for the growth of ISIS and said he wants to president “to lay out a credible plan” to the American people tonight.
“In my view, we have a duty as a super power, without imperialistic aims, to help maintain international order and balance of power,” McConnell said. “And in my view that international order is maintained by American military might. … But that is not a view this president seems to share.”
“The emergence and recent actions of [ISIS] should convince [Obama] to revisit his prior assumptions and rethink his approach,” McConnell said.
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.