So here, with Congress now trying to figure out what to do about President’s Obama request for funding for the Syrian rebels, we have a glimpse, as rare in its way as an eclipse or a meteor shower, of two Republican pathologies colliding head-on. The first is their biological urge to oppose Obama on all matters. The second is the House Republicans’ chronic eleventh-hour melodramatics about keeping the government funded every September. I could throw in a third—John McCain’s ever-mounting and ever-more-obvious personal bitterness toward Obama—but we’ll lay him aside for today and focus on this joining of the two pathologies, which in the worst-case scenario threatens to derail Obama’s anti-ISIS campaign before it even starts.
Fast background: Congress has to pass a continuing resolution by September 30 or we’ll have a government shutdown again. Actually, in practical terms, it has to pass it within the next few days, because the Jewish holidays are coming and Congress is going on recess so members can go back home and campaign.
In an election year, no one on the GOP side wants to risk a government shutdown (check that—Ted Cruz still kind of does!). The two parties are mostly arguing about the Export-Import Bank, the newest piece of coal for the tea party fire, but that’s the kind of thing they usually agree at the last minute to extend for another six months.
But that was the pre-ISIS state of play. Then we all saw the beheading videos, and fighting the Islamic State became a matter of urgency. Obama had asked Congress for $500 million in aid to the Syrian rebels back in June, but Congress, in its laconic, congressional way, was originally going to wait until next year to get around to that. But now the administration wants that $500 million—which is actually part of a larger $2 billion request that would include other money for operations in Iraq and Ukraine—to be passed now. And it wants it included in the “CR,” as they call it.
As you probably know, the House Republicans met Thursday morning in the aftermath of Obama’s speech to figure out how to proceed. As you probably also know, they didn’t figure it out. Some support Obama’s request—John Boehner does, and the relevant committee chairmen. Others, of course, don’t trust Obama. Some want to keep the Syria money in the CR. Others want to pry it out and have two votes, one on government funding and one on the Syria dough.
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