House and Senate Intelligence panel members have voted to block President Obama from arming Syrian rebels, committee insiders told The Hill. They did so by placing severe restrictions on funding.
Lawmakers made their decision last month for fear that the administration plan would let weapons fall into the hands of terrorist groups, such as the many linked to al Qaeda.
The exact nature of the restrictions is unknown because the committees voted privately on the basis of classified information. What is known is that the restrictions are sufficient to prevent the administration from delivering arms as planned, according to a source familiar with the actions.
The committee “voted to allow them to make some movement on this, but it’s restricted,” said one Senate panel insider, who declined to elaborate on the total aid or the restrictions added by the Intelligence panels, which both met again on Tuesday. “It was a very restrictive amount.”
Administration officials stopped shy of saying that the efforts had thwarted the effort to arm rebel groups, but said it certainly didn’t make it easier.
“They’re raising a lot of questions without having alternative answers,” said one senior administration official.
“Whatever we do, we have to make sure we do it right,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday.
“If we are going to arm, we have to make sure we have control of what arms are out there and how people are trained to use those arms so they don’t fall into the hands of our enemy al Qaeda,” Ruppersberger said.