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Obama asks Congress for authority to train, arm moderate Syrians

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, before convening a meeting with his national security team on the militant threat in Syria and Iraq. The diplomatic press is one part of the Obama administration’s push as it tries to make the case for concerted action against the extremist group that has overrun huge tracts of Syria and Iraq, declared the establishment of a proto-state ruled by Islamic law and earned a bloody reputation for brutality and ruthlessness. Obama is to deliver a speech Wednesday, Sept. 10 laying out his plan for defeating the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File\n

President Barack Obama is asking Congress to pass legislation authorizing the administration to provide arms and training to moderate Syrian rebels.

The proposal is expected to be part of Obama's strategy for dealing with the Islamic State, which Obama will outline in a nation-wide address Wednesday night.

President Barack Obama is asking Congress to approve the arming and training of moderate Syrians, a request that has forced House Republicans to alter its schedule for the week. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

While that element was the subject of speculation, it wasn't known until Wednesday whether Obama would seek formal authorization from Congress. But Wednesday afternoon, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the White House has in fact Congress for authority.

"The piece involves a request for additional authority to be included in the continuing resolution," McCarthy told members on the House floor, referring to a short-term spending bill the House is considering this week.

As a result of the request, McCarthy said the plan in the House was to listen to Obama's remarks Wednesday night, and then attend a classified briefing Thursday morning on Obama's plan.

It's possible that the House could include authority for the White House in the short-term bill to fund the federal government. Republicans were due to consider that bill on Thursday, but McCarthy said it would now be postponed in order to consider how to handle the Islamic State crisis.

McCarthy struck a conciliatory tone in his brief remarks, and said Congress stands ready to work with Obama to deal with the expanding terrorist group.

"I think I speak for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle when I say that we stand ready to listen and work with the president to confront this growing threat," he said.

For the last few weeks, many Republicans have called on Obama to seek formal authorization for his strategy in the Middle East, which some have said amounts to a new military effort. But the White House has indicated that Obama does not believe he needs congressional authority for all of his proposed actions.

For example, the White House has said congressional approval is not needed in order to step up airstrikes against the Islamic State.

One last thing…
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