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Why Durbin voted yes on funding Syrian rebels

Updated...WASHINGTON — On Oct. 11, 2002, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was one of only 23 senators to vote against the invasion of Iraq. That was a vote that has defined Durbin ever since.

“I remember that vote as if it were yesterday,” Durbin said from the Senate floor on Thursday, hours before another vote that will put the U.S. on a path towards war.

“. . . I remember my thinking on that October night 2002 that we should hold back, not get involved in Iraq. And I think I was right. I think history proved me right,” Durbin said.

Durbin was explaining why he would be voting for a measure, to run through Dec. 11, to train and equip “appropriately vetted” Syrian forces to battle the Islamic State group — also called ISIS or ISIL — and temporarily fund the federal government.

A day after the House approved similar legislation, the Senate concurred 73-22 on a bipartisan roll call, with Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., also voting yes.

As in the House, the no votes came from an unusual grouping: Democratic progressives, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Republicans with a Libertarian bent, such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Unlike in 2002, “I think that we have no choice but to do this but to do it thoughtfully, without combat troops, with clear accountability and reports and behind a coalition that has Arab and Muslim nations,” Durbin said in his floor speech.

Earlier in the day, after Durbin said he would vote for the measure — which did not specifically authorize a war against ISIL — I asked him about his decision.

“I’ll tell you Lynn, several things led me to voting yes. It goes ’til Dec. 11; we get to see how this unfolds. . . . So we can monitor what the administration is actually doing. We won’t be doing anything until a coalition is formed. I think that is an important element. And we know that we will return for a larger re-authorization question as soon as we get back in November,” Durbin said.

Kirk told me he also wants an authorization vote. And if the Obama White House called him, Kirk said, “I could offer some very good guidance to build bipartisan support for the military mission in Iraq.”

OBERWEIS AWOL ON ISIL VOTE

Congress now is off until after the midterm elections, in which Durbin is running against GOP nominee Jim Oberweis.

Thursday’s Senate vote was the most important one this year. The Oberweis campaign declined several requests for an interview or even a statement on how Oberweis would have voted and his views on the conflict. This is not a hypothetical. This is the real world. Illinoisans deserve to know where Oberweis stands. Instead, Oberweis ducked.

Update….Statement from Jim Oberweis, received Friday morning…”…likely would have voted yes…”

From Oberweis: ”I think this is a very difficult situation that we would not be in if President Obama had not pulled all of our troops out of Iraq too soon. But that is past. ISIL poses a very dangerous threat to Western civilization and had I been in the Senate I would have listened closely to the debate and likely would have voted yes. However I don’t say that absolutely because the Syrian funding was part of a larger bill that I haven’t seen.”