Minnesota House members split on vote to arm Syrian rebels fighting ISIS

A rebel fighter from the Free Syrian Army
A rebel fighter from the Free Syrian Army runs down a street in Aleppo.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Five of Minnesota's eight U.S. House members voted today to expand a program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State.

ā€¢ More: House passes bill that authorizes arming Syrian rebels

Democrats Betty McCollum and Rick Nolan and Republican Michele Bachmann all opposed the measure.

Much of the debate centered around whether there were reliable American allies among the Free Syrian Army rebel group, which will receive U.S. help under the plan.

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat representing Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, argued that the group was worthy of American aid.

"For four years, these people who were dismissed as nothing but bankers and bakers and not real soldiers have stood their ground and stood for their country," Ellison said.

McCollum, who represents the 4th Congressional District, says the fight isn't winnable until Turkey halts the flow of recruits, equipment and oil across the border with Syria.

"Training Syrians right now with the Turkish border wide open is not something that I think is a good use of America's treasure," McCollum said.

Republican Erik Paulsen, of the 3rd Congressional District, cast a yes vote for arming the rebels ā€” but he says it was a reluctant yes vote.

"There are a lot of bad options on the table and the option of doing nothing is not an option," Paulsen said.

The other Minnesotans voting yes were Rep. John Kline, Rep. Collin Peterson and Rep. Tim Walz.

The Senate is likely to vote on the measure Thursday.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.