President Obama: ‘Americans Are United’ in Fight Against ISIS

The Senate voted 78-22 in favor of the plan.

ByABC News
September 18, 2014, 7:19 PM
President Obama addresses the nation on Sept. 18, 2014.
President Obama addresses the nation on Sept. 18, 2014.
ABC News

— -- The Senate passed a stop gap funding measure tonight, which includes authorization for President Obama's plan to train and arm Syrian moderates in the fight against ISIS.

The Senate voted 78-22 on the continuing resolution, which will fund the government and authorizes Title X until December 11.

Many Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the continuing resolution, making this a rare bipartisan showing in the Senate.

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In a brief statement from the White House President Obama declared a united American front in the fight against ISIS militants.

“The strong bipartisan support in Congress for this new training effort shows the world that Americans are united,” Obama said. “I want to thank members of congress for the speed and seriousness with which they approached this urgent issue -- in keeping with the bipartisanship that is the hallmark of American foreign policy at its best.”

Obama called the program a “key element” of his strategy to combat ISIS, supporting non-American boots on the ground “so that they can help push back these terrorists.”

The president also hailed the growing international coalition of “more than 40 countries, including Arab nations” – singling out France, which announced today that it would join the U.S. in conducting airstrikes in Iraq.

Of the vote, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said: “It’s a long overdue support for the brave Syrians who are fighting on the front lines against the terrorist enemy."

“There is no guarantee of success. ... There is none but there is a guarantee of failure if we do not even try and try we must,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said of arming and training Syrian fighters against ISIS. “Despite my concerns about the underlying bill…I will support this resolution because I think it’s in the best interest of our national security.”

But several of the president’s biggest allies, including one with a tough re-election fight this November, voted against the measure.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, whose Republican opponent in the Alaska Senate race said he would support the president’s plan to arm the Syrian rebels, voted against the continuing resolution due to his opposition to training and arming the Syrian rebels.

“I disagree with my president,” Begich said. “The rebels of today may not be the rebels of tomorrow.”

Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate did not hold a stand-alone vote on the bill, many argued due to concerns of how it would play in the midterm elections this November.

The House had approved authorization to train and arm the Syrian rebels with a vote of 273 to 156 on Wednesday.

The authorization for training and arming the Syrian rebels will run out on December 11th, at which point Congress will have to decide whether it will reauthorize the plan. Sen Dick Durbin, D-Ill., indicated that the Senate will consider a new authorization for the use of military force in November when Congress returns for the lame duck session.

“We are going to take up the construction of a new authorization for the use of military force,” Durbin said. “It’s long overdue. We are living on borrowed time and we’re traveling on vapors. AUMFs passed in 2001 and 2002 are hard to wrap around today’s challenge.”

The continuing resolution now heads to the White House for President Obama’s signature and gives the president the green light to move forward with his plan to train and arm the Syrian rebels.

In his statement Obama reiterated the pledge he made yesterday at CENTCOM: “American forces deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat missions. Their purpose is to advise on the ground,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is preparing to expand American airstrikes into Syria, which administration officials have said could come any day.

Obama acknowledged tonight that U.S. pilots will be at risk on those missions. “We salute our dedicated pilots and crews,” Obama said, “who are carrying out these missions with great courage and skill.”

He asked Americans to “to keep our forces and their families in their thoughts and prayers.”