After postponing consideration last week of a stop-gap spending measure to fund the government past Sept. 30, House GOP leaders are poised in the days ahead to bring that same piece of legislation to the floor.
That vote, however, will now likely be coupled with consideration of an amendment to the underlying bill that would authorize the Obama administration to train and arm Syrian rebels against the insurgent terrorist organization known as the Islamic State or ISIS.
This bifurcated approach would make it considerably easier for members — on both sides of the aisle — to vote against the ISIS language but not the continuing resolution, taking off the table the threat of a revolt large enough to risk another government shutdown. GOP leaders had been hoping late last week to include President Barack Obama’s eleventh-hour request for the Title 10 authority within the text of the CR, but many Republicans said that request didn’t go far enough to combat an overseas terrorist threat that could one day threaten the U.S. if not sufficiently addressed.
Some Democrats , meanwhile, said they didn’t want to vote for Title 10 authority unless they had a chance to also vote to authorize the use of military force, a politically loaded and time-consuming exercise that leaders from both parties don’t want to have until after the midterm elections.
In an attempt to further quell concerns among House lawmakers, the ISIS language, as it currently stands, would promote transparency by including certain reporting requirements on the part of the White House. The draft text, which is being prepared by the House Armed Services Committee, also would make it explicit that the Title 10 authorization would be limited to the train-and-equip mission only, meaning that if the administration wanted to deploy combat troops on the ground, it would need to seek justification elsewhere.
An additional gift House GOP leaders are leaning towards giving their members is time to debate the authorization this week. If the ISIS language is, as expected, considered as an amendment to the CR, typical rules governing floor debate would grant members only 10 minutes to debate it. In this case, according to a senior GOP aide, amendment debate would be “lengthy.”
That debate time will be crucial to members who want to go on the record on the matter before heading home for the final campaign sprint leading up to the November elections.
The House Rules Committee is expected to meet late Monday evening to set the parameters for floor consideration of both measures, but GOP aides caution that the game plan could change within hours.
On Tuesday, leaders will be able to do a temperature check of the conference at the weekly members’ meeting, and later in the day, once they’ve done a whip count, they’ll have a better sense of whether the support exists to move forward.
Democrats could also throw a wrench into the works. If a significant number of Republicans don’t want to vote for the CR as it currently stands, Democrats could be relied on to help make up for the shortfall, in which case Democrats might feel empowered to negotiate for a better deal — like a longer re-authorization of the soon-to-expire Export-Import Bank.
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