President Barack Obama spoke Thursday shortly after the Senate approved his plan to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants, praising Congress for passing the legislation and reaffirming that U.S. troops will not be put into combat in Iraq.
"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. "I believe we're strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work together."
Obama praised congressional leaders for their "speed and seriousness" in moving forward with the legislation. Echoing remarks he made Wednesday in Tampa, he insisted that American forces "do not and will not have a combat mission."
"Their mission is to advise and assist our partners on the ground," he said. "We can join with allies and partners to destroy ISIL without American troops fighting another ground war in the Middle East."
The measure provides $500 million to expand the administration's campaign against the militants, as well as fund the arms and training for rebel forces. (The amendment was attached to a continuing resolution to fund the government until December 11). The House passed the legislation on Wednesday.
The Huffington Post's Mike McAuliff and Jen Bendery reported earlier Thursday:
The bill passed 73 to 22, and heads to the White House, where President Barack Obama, who ran as an anti-war president, is likely to sign it. It allows Obama in effect to begin hostilities against an enemy in Syria, relying on the war declarations passed with the authorizations to use military force in 2001 and 2002 that targeted al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
Lawmakers and the White House agree the AUMFs are outdated -- some members don’t even think it’s constitutional for the president to apply them to current military operations against ISIS -- and need to be modernized.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who made the case for the majority, acknowledged that the Senate needs to hold a broader debate, and a vote, on a new war authorization. Durbin said he expects that to happen only after lawmakers return from the elections in November.