Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Joins Bipartisan Call for Debate on Troubling Syria Provisions Buried in Defense Authorization Bill

December 4, 2014
Press Release

‘Train and equip’ authority would be extended for two years without serious Congressional debate or standalone vote

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) has joined a group of bipartisan colleagues to call attention to significant policy provisions that were inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 (NDAA) without a vote or serious debate.  The annual defense bill will come to the House floor for approval today, and includes a two-year extension of the authority to equip and train so-called moderate Syrian rebels.
“It is absolutely unacceptable to include an open-ended policy of arming and training so-called ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels in the NDAA without any serious public debate or a standalone vote,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a twice-deployed veteran who has repeatedly criticized the strategy to arm Syrian rebels. “Giving weapons and training to these rebels whose stated purpose is to overthrow President Assad will have lengthy and costly consequences because it continues the broken policy of overthrowing regimes and nation-building that has cost so many precious lives and our nation’s treasure, drawing us into another country’s civil war.  I voted against this provision on September 17, when the Administration promised Congress would be able to reassess this strategy in December 2014.  To the contrary, Congress has had no opportunity to discuss, debate, or vote on this standalone question.  There is no reason to bury this issue in a major must-pass annual defense bill that includes critical provisions for our military’s readiness and our troops’ well-being.  We must have a standalone vote so the American people’s voice can be heard.
“Congress cannot continue to offer tacit support for a strategy that does not support achieving our mission of destroying ISIL and the Islamic extremists who seek to harm us.  By continuing to funnel weapons to rebels in Syria, whose vetting and loyalties are questionable and untested, we face the likely outcome of our weapons falling into the hands of our enemies yet again, to be used against Americans and innocent civilians.”

Congresswoman Gabbard joined a bipartisan letter led by Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to Speaker John Boehner reiterating these concerns about the Syria train and equip provisions inserted into the NDAA agreement.
Full text of the bipartisan letter is available below:
December 3, 2014

Speaker John Boehner
Office of the Speaker
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Speaker:
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) currently scheduled to come to the floor tomorrow contains many major policy decisions affecting our country and our armed forces. We believe the Congress should have an opportunity to debate and consider amendments on questions of significant magnitude.
Specifically, the NDAA coming before the House provides a two-year authorization to deploy American troops to train and equip the so-called moderate Syrian rebels. The Congress should have the chance to hold a separate vote on that provision.  In September, a majority in Congress voted to temporarily authorize preparation for such a mission for a short period ending December 11th. The temporary authorization included robust provisions for Congressional oversight and mandated reporting requirements. No new funding was authorized at that time. The Administration has requested $500 million as part of this new authorization.  This NDAA provision is written so that – with the sole consent of the four defense committees – the amount could well exceed the requested $500 million.  Additionally, the movement of American forces on the ground in other countries of the region is a very consequential decision. A matter of that importance should not be tucked into a huge NDAA bill and shielded from a separate vote.
Given the importance of this decision to use American troops to train and equip so-called moderate Syrian rebels in places like Saudi Arabia, Congress has a duty to debate and vote separately on this question. We must not abdicate our responsibility to the American people and the men and women who serve in our military.


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