Senate Bill Introduced to Block Military Funds to Syria



WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced bipartisan legislation to prohibit the President from using any funds on activities that would escalate U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

The bill would ban the Department of Defense, the CIA and all other intelligence agencies from funding any military, paramilitary or covert operations in Syria.  The legislation would not affect humanitarian aid.

All four Senators have spoken out strongly in opposition to President Obama’s decision to arm rebel groups in Syria.  Udall, Murphy and Paul, all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, cast the lone votes in Committee against authorizing the President to arm and train rebels fighting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in an ongoing civil war.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.): “I am deeply disturbed by the current situation in Syria and atrocities committed by President Assad’s regime and other militant groups inside Syria.  The ongoing humanitarian tragedy deserves the attention of the international community.  But there are too many questions about how the President’s decision to arm the Syrian rebels will be handled, and unfortunately many of those answers are being kept secret.  We don’t know where the money is coming from, who the arms are going to, and whether the arms are going to individuals who have the capabilities to maintain a chain of custody of those weapons.  This would not be acceptable in any standard sale of weapons to another government and should definitely not be acceptable for sales to rebel groups we know little about.  We need to place a check on the President’s unilateral decision to arm the rebels, while still preserving humanitarian aid and assistance to the Syrian people, and that is why I’m introducing this bill.  Bottom line: We should not get involved in another civil war in the Middle East without a clear national security interest.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT): “The conflict in Syria has been going on for over two years, yet there are many questions surrounding the composition and goals of Syrian opposition groups and the interests of U.S. national security that need answers.   Any military involvement in Syria, including the arming of Syrian rebels, needs to be authorized through Congress, where concerns can be publicly debated and the American people can have a say.   We have to ensure that we are not arming extremist groups who seek to cause chaos in the region and harm the United States and our allies.   The long-term objectives of increased involvement in Syria are vague, as are the necessary commitments and costs.  The United States cannot be involved in more nation building in the Middle East.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): “I’m deeply skeptical about plans for military intervention in Syria, given the dangerously fractured state of the opposition, and the very real risk of American weapons and money falling into the hands of the same terrorist organizations we’re already fighting around the world.  We should be extremely wary of allowing the United States to be drawn into a complicated proxy war that could mire our country for years at a potentially incalculable cost to U.S. taxpayers and America’s reputation at home and abroad. Our focus should be on increasing humanitarian assistance to refugee populations and opposition groups instead of injecting more weapons into the conflict.  At the very least, the American people deserve a full and honest debate on the issue in the full Congress before our nation makes a commitment to becoming more deeply involved in the Syrian conflict.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): “The President’s unilateral decision to arm Syrian rebels is incredibly disturbing, considering what little we know about whom we are arming. Engaging in yet another conflict in the Middle East with no vote or Congressional oversight compounds the severity of this situation. The American people deserve real deliberation by their elected officials before we send arms to a region rife with extremists who seek to threaten the U.S. and her allies.”

The text of the bill follows:

Title: To restrict funds related to escalating United States military involvement in Syria.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Protecting Americans from the Proliferation of Weapons to Terrorists Act of 2013”.

SEC. 2. PROHIBITION ON FUNDS TO ESCALATE UNITED STATES MILITARY INVOLVEMENT IN SYRIA.

(a) In General.—Except as provided under subsection (b), no funds made available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities may be obligated or expended for the purpose of, or in a manner which would have the effect of, supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Syria by any nation, group, organization, movement, or individual.

(b) Exception.—The prohibition under subsection (a) does not apply to funds obligated for non-lethal humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people provided directly by the United States Government, through nongovernmental organizations and contractors, or through foreign governments.

(c) Duration of Prohibition.—The prohibition under subsection (a) shall cease to apply only if a joint resolution approving assistance for military or paramilitary operations in Syria is enacted.

(d) Quarterly Reports.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 90 days thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit to Congress a report on assistance provided to groups, organizations, movements, and individuals in Syria.

(e) Non-lethal Humanitarian Assistance Defined.—In this Act, the term “non-lethal humanitarian assistance” means humanitarian assistance that is not weapons, ammunition, or other equipment or material that is designed to inflict serious bodily harm or death.

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