House Votes to Ensure No Taxpayer Funds Go to Rebuild Assad Territory

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with Australia's SBS news channel, in Damascus, Syria, in a photo released by Syria's official news agency on July 1, 2016. (SANA via AP)

WASHINGTON — The House passed by voice vote a bill Tuesday ensuring that the regime of Bashar al-Assad won’t get any U.S. taxpayer funds slated to help Syria.

The legislation was introduced in December by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.). It garnered 21 additional bipartisan co-sponsors.

“It shall be the policy of the United States that United States assistance made available for early recovery, reconstruction, or stabilization in Syria should be used in a democratic Syria or in areas of Syria not controlled by the Government of Syria led by Bashar al-Assad or associated forces,” states the bill.

On the House floor, Royce said the bill “comes at a critical time.”

“After seven years of devastating civil war, the destruction inflicted on the Syrian people by the Assad regime and its allies is catastrophic. Even now, Iranian backed militias are engaged in sectarian cleansing and forcing people from their homes. Russian war planes continue to drop bombs on hospitals. Just two weeks ago, the regime again used chemical weapons outside of Damascus as part of an operation that has displaced 55,000 people,” he said.

“Unfortunately, as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum noted in a recent report, the situation on the ground is getting even worse in Syria, and the worst is probably yet to come.”

Royce added that “at the same time as this carnage is going on, representatives of Syria, Iran and Russia have spread out across the international community trying to gin up reconstruction money,” but “they will not find it here.”

“It would be unconscionable for U.S. government funds to be used for stabilization or reconstruction in areas under control of the illegitimate Assad regime and its proxies. We are not going to support the building of infrastructure that will benefit Hezbollah, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, or foreign militias recruited and paid by the Iranian regime,” the chairman continued.

“If – or when – the day comes that the Government of Syria is no longer led by Bashar al-Assad and his proxies, then the U.S. can once again look at the prospect for assistance. We do have an interest in seeing a stable and secure – and not hostile – Syria one day,” he said. “But until then, I ask that members join with us to ensure no U.S. funding makes it into the hands of Assad and his proxies.”