John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell back plan to train, arm Syrian rebels to fight ISIS

PATRICIA ZENGERLE AND RICHARD COWAN --- Reuters 

The U.S. House of Representatives votes on Wednesday on legislation to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels, but questions remain over whether it will give them the advanced weapons they say they need to defeat Islamic State militants.

The vote is a test of support within President Barack Obama's own party for his stepped-up campaign to "degrade and destroy" Islamic State fighters who have seized a third of both Iraq andSyria, declared war on the West and seek to establish a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.

The spending-bill amendment is widely expected to pass, backed by both Democrats and Republicans later on Wednesday. It is also expected to pass the Senate later this week.

Facing resistance by war-weary lawmakers in Obama's Democratic party, the administration has reached across the aisle to Republicans for crucial support, a rare bipartisan moment in an otherwise polarized Congress.

Ohio Representative John Boehner, the Republican House speaker, and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, both say they will back the authorization, which lasts only until Dec. 11, the day the spending bill also expires.

The amendment does not provide details about the training plan, prompting lawmakers to fear that a "yes" vote could mean authorizing shipments of military equipment that might end up in the wrong hands and possibly even kill Americans.

"I'm not confident we know who our allies are," West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, said in a Senate speech on Wednesday to explain why he opposed the training effort.

The amendment does not include $500 million the White House says it needs to arm and train the rebels. It is intended to quickly provide the authority Obama wants while avoiding a debate on the money.

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