Overall, if approved by the Senate, the bill would keep money flowing to federal agencies after the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, through Dec. 11, at the current annualized spending level of $1.012 trillion. The stopgap measure is needed because the House and Senate have not agreed on any of the 12 annual spending bills for fiscal 2015.
Senators and aides expect the package to pass with majorities on both sides, but the question of arming and vetting Syrian rebels has produced some discomfort for both Democrats and Republicans. Liberals are questioning the potential for escalation in the use of force in Syria, while conservatives object to the president's overall strategy.
In order to attract both groups, the Syria authorization was very deliberately and very tightly knit together to give the president the authority he desires, while, for the time being, ruling out a ground war and putting a strict time limit on that authority. The authorization, like the continuing resolution, will expire on Dec. 11.
That feature in particular won the support of Republican leadership.
"I particularly like the fact that the Syria authorizing legislation sunsets with the expiration of the CR or the passage of the defense authorization bill," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "What's good about that is even though—again, speaking for myself—I support what the president's doing, I'd like to take another look at it a couple of months from now and see how it's working out."
Senior lawmakers are predicting that a war authorization will emerge as an important issue, likely when Congress moves to approve a bill authorizing the defense budget for 2015.
"This issue will be taken up in the NDAA," said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan. Levin suggested that the language in the House package could simply be extended, or that lawmakers may include an authorization for the use of military force, which could involve airstrikes.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez said last week that his committee would begin drafting an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, one that, members on both sides say, is likely to be a major source of contention during the lame duck.
Senate Democrats who had opposed the authorization for the use of force in Iraq as House members are wary of voting to OK a military incursion in Syria. Nonetheless, they say they'll back the continuing resolution that includes the authorization to train Syrian rebels.
"I think it is very important that Congress take up an authorization for the use of military force," said Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland. "What we're doing in the CR is clearly not for the authorization of the use of force. It says that specifically."
Although there is widespread support for considering an AUMF, passage looks to be another story.