WASHINGTON — The Senate agreed Thursday to authorize the White House to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels to confront the militant group known as the Islamic State, or ISIS.

WASHINGTON — The Senate agreed Thursday to authorize the White House to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels to confront the militant group known as the Islamic State, or ISIS.


The measure was included in broader legislation needed to keep government agencies operating when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The bill, which cleared the House Wednesday, now heads to the president for his signature. It was approved, 73-22.


Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and John Boozman, R-Ark., voted in favor of the bill — as had Arkansas’ four House members. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., also voted in favor. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., opposed it.


The two Arkansas senators expressed similar reservations about providing arms and training to moderate rebels in Syria but agreed the United States needs to respond forcefully to the growing threat posed by the Islamic jihadists.


"They hacked off the heads of two Americans and said they would see us in Washington. So, I think we have to strongly get them to understand they simply can’t do that to American citizens," Boozman said in an interview ahead of the vote.


President Barack Obama last week outlined his plans to expand military action against ISIS after the group beheaded two American journalists it held in captivity. Since August, the U.S. has launched air strikes against ISIS in Iraq.


Boozman said the resolution would give Obama a limited window to demonstrate his expanded approach to combating ISIS can succeed.


"The authorization goes through Dec. 11. So it gives us time to see if the Administration is moving forward and using this authority wisely," Boozman said.


Boozman is particularly concerned whether a large enough force of moderate rebels can be trained and armed quickly enough to combat an Islamic State with more than 30,000 forces controlling portions of Syria and Iraq.


"That’s why the Dec. 11 date is so important," Boozman said.


Pryor issued a statement in support of the continuing resolution and combating ISIS.


"ISIS poses a clear and growing danger, and we need to destroy these terrorists," Pryor said. "I still have reservations about the Train and Equip program. However, unlike previous versions of this proposal, this resolution includes new and enhanced accountability measures. These safeguards, along with our regional allies on the ground, will help ensure U.S. equipment is used effectively to fight extremists."


Coburn said he agrees that the United States must respond to ISIS but was skeptical that the White House or Pentagon has a real plan of attack.


"We know that something needs to be done, but your government doesn’t know yet what to do," Coburn said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote.


Congress will not return to session until after the mid-term elections in November. In the meantime, federal agencies will operate under a "continuing resolution" that keeps them funded at current levels through Dec. 11.


The resolution also provides additional funding the White House requested for combating the Ebola outbreak in Africa and reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank into 2015.