Sen. Joe Manchin says providing weapons to groups in Syria will backfire
The congressional measure ties government funding to a measure ot arm Syrian rebels
The House is slated to vote Wednesday and the Senate soon after
Congressional leadership doesn't want a stand-alone vote so close to the midterm elections
As the pounding of war drums intensifies against ISIS and its advances in Iraq and Syria, at least one senator is voicing opposition to plans to arm Syrian rebels and says he’s willing to shut down the government over it.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who often finds himself at odds with the White House, said spending $500 million to provide weapons to groups in Syria that are fighting both ISIS and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will backfire.
“At the end of the day, most of the arms that we give to people are used against us. Most of the people we train turn against us,” Manchin said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.”
While lawmakers are expected to put off until after the November election a vote on direct U.S. military action in Syria, votes on arming Syrian rebels could come this week as part of a larger funding bill. The House is slated to vote Wednesday, and the Senate soon after, on a measure that ties funding for the entire government to a measure authorizing the administration to arm Syrian opposition groups. Government funding runs out at the end of September and if new legislation isn’t passed, many government services will come to a halt.
Manchin, who is opposed to arming the rebels, called tying the two issues together an “atrocious” package.
“I’m willing to vote. I will vote no – absolutely no – and stand tall in West Virginia to explain my vote,” he said.
Manchin said his critics might say he voted to shut down the government. His response: “But guess what’s wrapped into it, a policy that might get us embroiled (in war) for years and years.”
Congressional leaders are reluctant to hold a stand-alone vote on the measure because of the upcoming midterm elections less than two months away. Lawmakers would have to go to their districts and explain their positions to a war-weary public.
Manchin is not up for re-election this year. But at least one senator running for re-election has indicated opposition to arming the rebels. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, who is in a tight race against Republican Dan Sullivan, said in a statement last week that he opposes the plan “at this time.”
“I am gravely concerned by reports of ISIS seizing and utilizing U.S. weapons intended for those fighting against the Syrian regime, and we must have greater assurance that we aren’t arming extremists who will eventually use the weapons against us,” Begich added.
Manchin also responded to lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who are suggesting that the U.S. approach to ISIS go even further than what President Barack Obama has proposed and include U.S. involvement in a ground war.
“In West Virginia, at least we know the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results,” he said. “This has to be a ground game by the people of that region.”
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CNN’s Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report