The U.S Senate passed a bill Thursday evening that will give President Barack Obama the authority to arm moderate Syrian rebels, which is a key part of his plan to fight the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL).
Shortly after the Senate passed the bill, which was passed by the House on Wednesday, Obama spoke from the White House.
“I’m pleased that Congress, a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans in both the House and Senate, have now voted to support a key element of our strategy,” Obama said.
Obama, who reiterated the fact America is taking on ISIS with a “coalition” that includes Arab nations, said the bill will enable the US to support more moderate groups who have been battling the group and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We’ll provide training and equipment to help them grow stronger,” said Obama.
The president also stressed the American efforts to fight ISIS will not include combat troops on the ground.
Obama also thanked congressional leadership for what he described as the “speed and seriousness” with which they approached the legislation. He described their actions as “bipartisanship” that reflected American politics “at its best.”
The bill passed with a 73-22 roll call, which did not cut across party lines. It was packaged along with a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded through December 11 and avert another shutdown.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other Republicans attempted to block the bill, which they described as an effort to use the urgent situation with ISIS to secure funding for Obama’s proposed executive action on immigration reform. Others have questioned the decision to arm the rebels.
In a statement Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who voted against the bill, expressed concern weapons given to the rebels could fall into the wrong hands.
“I am deeply concerned by the rise of ISIS, and I support a strong, coordinated response, but I am not convinced that the current proposal to train and equip Syrian forces adequately advances our interests,” Warren said. “After detailed briefings, I remain concerned that our weapons, our funding, and our support may end up in the hands of people who threaten the United States — and even if we could guarantee that our support goes to the right people, I remain unconvinced that training and equipping these forces will be effective in pushing back ISIS.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who voted for the bill, subsequently issued a statement describing it as “imperfect.”
“I supported this imperfect funding measure today primarily because we must go on the offence against this terrorist, so-called caliphate, that has beheaded Americans and is a serious threat both to our allies’ and our own national security interests,” said Toomey. “While I have deep concerns about the details of the plan to fund certain Syrian rebels, it is the only plan we have under this Commander-in-Chief to fight back against ISIS and the authorization lasts only to December 11th of this year. At that time, we will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of this plan and determine then whether to continue it.”
Toomey blamed Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for preventing the funding and the measure to arm the rebels from being debated separately.
“I would have preferred to have separate votes on funding the Syrian rebels and funding the operations of government. Unfortunately, Leader Reid would not allow that,” he said.
This post was updated at 7:57 p.m.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.