A bipartisan group of senators have introduced legislation to block the U.S. from escalating its involvement in the Syrian civil war as concerns mount on Capitol Hill over the Obama administration’s plan to directly arm rebels.
Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Tom Udall, D-N.M,; and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced the bill Thursday to prohibit the Defense Department and intelligence agencies from funding operations in Syria.
Earlier this month, Obama announced the U.S. would begin providing arms and ammunition, after President Bashar Assad’s military dealt the rebels serious setbacks. The conflict is now in its third year with some 93,000 estimated dead.
Paul said he was disturbed by the president’s decision to reverse course and arm the rebels, fearing getting mired in a conflict in which little is known about the fighters battling the regime.
“Engaging in yet another conflict in the Middle East with no vote or Congressional oversight compounds the severity of this situation,” Paul said in a statement. “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.”
Murphy expressed concern over the possibility that American weapons and money could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.
“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,” Murphy said.
The senators said the bill would not apply to non-lethal humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people provided by the U.S.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in May to provide weapons to rebels in Syria, as well as military training to vetted rebel groups and sanctions against anyone who sells oil or transfers arms to the Assad regime.
Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday, Obama refused to describe the type of military support the U.S. will give to Syrian rebels. He praised a decision by world leaders at the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland to seek a negotiated peace.
Obama said even though leaders could not agree on whether Assad must go, he has decided it is not possible for Assad to regain legitimacy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.