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The Hill: Key Dem wants clean vote on ISIS

November 13, 2014
In The News

The Hill

A top House Democrat is calling for the $5.6 billion funding request for the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to be separate from a vote on the next government spending bill. 

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), the chief deputy minority whip, told The Hill Thursday the funding request should be tied to an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). 

“I believe there should be a separate debate on the authorization. It shouldn’t be tied into a larger bill. All of us should be required to take a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ position on this,” Welch said.

“Before we back our way into a significantly increased role in the region by approving funding for activities before we even debate the policy, we’re getting it backwards. We’re putting the cart before the horse.”

Welch said there are Democrats who feel similarly about having a clean vote on the ISIS measure.

While many Democrats have been calling for a vote on a new authorization measure in the lame-duck session, some Republicans want to delay it until next year, when their party takes over the Senate.

Welch said a lame-duck vote might not be realistic.

“Many new members have been elected, and I suspect that the leadership would want to let them weigh in,” he said. “I do believe we should have an authorization. It would be desirable to have it, but it’s unlikely [in the lame-duck session].” 

If the funding request is tied into an omnibus appropriations bill, Welch said, “I’d have a real tough time doing that.”

The Vermont Democrat said he has a number of questions about the effect of U.S. operations against ISIS on Syrian President Bashar Assad, the arming of the Syrian moderates, and political progress the Iraqi government is making in unifying Sunnis and Shias. 

“All of these are questions that are absolutely essential on a practical level to whether this $5.6 billion can be well-spent or wasted,” he said. “We’re taking a shortcut here that I think could be very dangerous for the future of the U.S.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) suggested this week that, if the ISIS request is included in the spending bill, it should include language that explicitly bans combat operations. Welch said he’d support that but said it would “still be a long way from having a debate on the authorization.”

The White House announced the new funding request Friday and coupled it with an announcement to deploy 1,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, bringing the total to more than 3,000.

Pentagon officials said this week the new deployment would wait until the new funding request is approved by Congress, which they want done in December.