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Published On: Tue, May 21st, 2013

Menendez-Corker bill, which would authorize the Obama administration to supply arms to Syria’s rebels, passes easily in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The Syria Transition Support Act, aka the Menendez-Corker bill, passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee easily Tuesday with a vote of 15-3.

The bill, co-introduced by the committee’s chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, (D-NJ), and ranking member Sen. Bob Corker, (R-TN), would authorize the shipment of arms and military training to rebels “that have gone through a thorough vetting process”.

Senator Robert Menendez Image/United States Senate

Senator Robert Menendez
Image/United States Senate

According to a press release from Chairman Menendez, “The situation in Syria is critical for Syrians, for the region, and for the U.S. effort to counter extremism.  More than 80,000 Syrians have died in the last two years, the number of refugees now tops 1.5 million; the conflict is spilling over into Lebanon and Iraq; and extremists groups with links to al-Qaeda are exploiting the conflict and gaining ground in a state with large chemical weapon stockpiles.  The time to act and turn the tide against Assad is now.  This legislation will provide critical support to the Syrian opposition through provision of military assistance, training, and additional humanitarian support.

“Given the risks to the U.S. and the region from an extremist takeover in Syria, I thank my colleagues for advancing our bill that seeks a better outcome by establishing a more focused U.S. strategy without new spending or authorizing American military force.  This effort has always been about more than the arming and training of vetted opposition groups; it is about shifting the momentum on the ground toward moderate forces while helping them build consensus for a new government post Assad,” said Corker.  “In order for the necessary political transition to take place, moderate forces must gain the upper hand, and Assad must doubt his chances of survival.  This bill moves that effort down the road in a serious, measured way, so I hope it is something my congressional colleagues and the president will embrace. ”

The three members to vote against the bill include Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Paul said to his Senate colleagues, “This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”

Amendments put forth by Paul and Udall designed soften the bill were dismissed by fellow members Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

In fact, Rubio, one many consider to be a possible 2016 Presidential contender, along with Paul, responded to Paul saying, “I don’t think any member of this committee would vote for anything we thought was going to arm al Qaeda.”

The Menendez-Corker legislation is comprised of six components: Authority to provide arms, military training and non-lethal supplies to the Syrian armed opposition, creation of a $250 million transition fund each year through FY2015 drawn from funds otherwise appropriated for regional transition support, sanctions on arms and oil sales to Assad, broad authority for humanitarian assistance, requiring the administration to work with Congress and keep it fully apprised of strategy towards Syria and amendment to the Syria Accountability Act.

It is still not clear if or when the entire Senate will vote on this bill.

 

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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