Politics

The U.S. Senate gave overwhelming approval Thursday to a measure aimed at training and arming Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State.

By a 78-22 margin, senators backed a plan to combat the terrorist group, a plan that was pushed by President Obama and tucked in a larger spending bill. The House approved the same measure a day earlier by a similarly comfortable margin.

Kentucky’s Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, stood on opposite sides of the debate as lawmakers cast their last votes before the mid-term elections.

Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, Paul, a 2016 presidential hopeful, said countries in the Middle East need to step up first.

“There are already those in both parties who insist that we must have American GIs on the ground,” he said. “I’m not sending any American soldiers. I’m not sending your son, your daughter or mine over to the middle of that chaos. The people who live there need to stand up and fight.”

Paul’s critics point out he was trying to have it both ways during his speech, which also touched on instances where U.S. military might would be necessary to combat terrorism overseas.

Kentucky’s junior senator joined a coalition of lawmakers from different ideological camps, including Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Ted Cruz, who also opposed the measure.

Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Dan Coats, both of Indiana, voted in favor of the measure.

The president’s strategy of using a combination of U.S. airstrikes and foreign rebel fights has created a brief moment of bipartisanship in Washington.

“I want to thank leaders of Congress for the speed and seriousness with which they approached this issue,” President Obama said Thursday after the Senate vote.

McConnell has been a fierce critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record and was cautious in his support, but said earlier today that he is behind the president’s plan to combat the Islamic State from spreading across the region.

The ISIL vote comes near the end of a two-week congressional session. Lawmakers won’t reconvene until after Election Day, as Paul noted during in his Senate floor speech.

“The people in this body are petrified—not of (ISIL)—but of the American voter,” he said. “They’re afraid to come forward and vote on war now.”