Joe Friedrichsen | Echo
The U.S. Senate passed a bill approving President Obama's plan to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels to battle Islamic State militants, a major part of his military campaign to fight the extremist group.
The Senate voted 78-22 on Thursday in a bipartisan show of support that followed the passage of the House's equivalent of the bill, according to Senate.gov. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved its equivalent of the legislation, which means the measure now goes to Obama to sign into law, reported clerk.house.gov.
According to the New York Times, Obama pushed hard for the training measure of the bill, which was tucked into a larger Senate bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30. Leaders of both parties favored this political maneuver, because it ensured as few defections as possible.
Light resistance was encountered by 10 Senate Democrats and 12 Republicans who voted "no" on the bill with some objections about including a war vote in a spending bill.
Other senators worried engaging with Syrian rebels would lead to broader involvement in Iraq or Syria's civil war, Reuters reported. They also believed any arms given to Syrian rebels might fall into the wrong hands and end up being used against U.S. forces or their allies.
"We must now defend ourselves from these barbarous jihadists, but let's not compound the problem by arming feckless rebels in Syria who seem to be merely a pit stop for weapons that are really on their way to ISIS," said Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a leading Republican skeptical of foreign military involvement.
Moderate Syrian rebels have been fighting a three-year civil war seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who has held onto power despite the rise of the Islamic State group (ISIL or ISIS) and a long covert U.S. effort to back the moderate fighters.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Obama maintains he doesn't need authorization from Congress to launch airstrikes against Islamic State militants. However, Obama said he wanted a congressional "buy-in" to his strategy to send a message of unity to allies and enemies abroad.
Obama praised Congress Thursday for backing his administration's plan to arm Syrian rebels,Reuters reported.
"I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together," Obama said.
Obama also announced France would join in airstrikes against Islamic State, bringing the number of countries in the anti-ISIL coalition to over 40.