House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Thursday afternoon that he expects Congress will vote next week to grant President Barack Obama authority to arm Syrian rebels against the insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State or ISIS.
But the Maryland Democrat also said he expected that that vote wouldn't be Congress's last word on the subject.
"I believe a two-step process is what we will, I think, pursue," Hoyer told CQ Roll Call and the Washington Post on Thursday during a taping of the C-SPAN program "Newsmakers," set to air on Sunday morning. "I think there will be consideration of the president's request to train and equip regional players."
Then, after the elections, Hoyer said he anticipated "consideration of a larger authorization for the use of military force."
He wouldn't say specifically whether the House would honor Obama's request for Title 10 authority — to train and equip vetted Syrian rebels to fight ISIS — inside the text of the continuing resolution needed to fund the government past Sept. 30, or instead in a separate vote. Obama asked for it to be dealt within the CR , and House Republican leaders were urging that route in conversations with their members on Thursday morning.
Hoyer did, however, say that he thought the majority of the House Democratic Caucus wanted to support the president and would do so next week in whatever vehicle, with the understanding that members would also later have a chance to go on record supporting — or not — military intervention more broadly.
"I frankly think the majority of our members are prepared to support the president's request," Hoyer said. "I think many of those members ... believe that we ought to have a vote before the end of the year on the authority of the use of military force, so the Congress can speak and represent the views of the American people in that regard. I think we have a lot of members who believe both things happen but not necessarily demanding that they happen at the same time.
"I'm hopeful, and we'll be working towards discussions within my own party, with Leader Pelosi, myself, the other leadership, discussing with our membership, that we will reach a consensus," he continued. "That does not mean that everybody will agree, but that we will have a broad agreement on the parameters."
Promising to facilitate a robust debate on authorizing force and on a broad strategy to combat ISIS could help mollify some Democrats who don't want to address the issue in the CR, though Hoyer could still find himself next week confronted by sizable opposition from his members.
Leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus released a statement Wednesday night, following Obama's address to the nation laying out his ISIS request, calling for "Speaker Boehner [to] ... put legislation authorizing military action on the floor of the House of Representatives before Congress leaves for the upcoming district work period."
The House is officially scheduled to recess the week of the Sept. 22 and then reconvene the final week of the month, but the expectation is that the chamber will finish next week's work and then leave town until after the midterms.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., one of Congress' most vocal opponents of military force in the decade since the United States went into Iraq, on Thursday wouldn't rule out voting against the CR if it contained Obama's Title 10 authority request.
"I'm uneasy," McGovern said. "The idea that you're going to attach it to a continuing resolution which is about keeping our government running, which allows for now debate on this, when I think people have some legitimate questions."
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