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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Washington on Sept. 10, 2014.

JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

Republicans and Democrats in Congress voiced strong pre-election support Thursday for President Barack Obama's call for new authority to combat Islamic State militants in the heart of the Middle East.

"Over the next week, following a series of briefings, Congress will work with the administration to ensure that our forces have the resources they need to carry out these missions," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid predicted Congress would swing behind the president's request, "not the least of which is the authority to equip and train Syrian troops to fight these … evil terrorists."

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Reid and McConnell spoke the morning after Obama's nationally televised speech, and as House Republicans appeared to be grudgingly coalescing around a vote to support the president's request.

"We do not want to go home without voting on some measure that goes toward destroying and defeating ISIS wherever it exists," said Michael McCaul, a Republican, referring to the militants.

Congress is in a brief two-week pre-November election session, and the president's request is an unexpected addition to what had until recently seemed a period devoted to domestic issues such as extending government funding beyond the end of the current budget year.

Public sentiment also appears to be shifting, with polls showing Americans more supportive of military action than they were in the immediate aftermath of the long, deadly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even so, there were scattered objections to Obama's request.

"I can't vote for what the president proposed because there was nothing new last night in the president's speech. He wants to continue the same failed strategy, but he wants to make it even worse by giving even more money to the so-called vetted moderates who aren't moderate at all," said Michele Bachmann, a Republican who is retiring at the end of the year.

In the immediate aftermath of Obama's speech, both Republican Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke favourably about his call for new authority to battle forces that have overrun parts of Syria and Iraq and have also beheaded two American journalists whom they had held captive.

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Still, the outlines of a longer-term national debate over America's role in the region seemed to be emerging.

In his speech, McConnell envisioned a "multi-year campaign" that would extend beyond Obama's time in office.

Pete King, a Republican, told reporters a 15-year conflict may be in the offing and that the country needs to adopt a "wartime footing" when it comes to defence spending.

John Fleming, said Republicans are divided into two camps on the issue. He characterized the view of one side this way: "This is not the president we choose, but it's the only president that we have and that we just have to go along with the one that we have and hope that we can hold him accountable for doing the right thing."' Fleming said the other group, including himself, believes it is an "insane strategy to go out there and depend on people that are proven undependable" to combat the militants. He said he prefers "all-out war" waged by U.S. forces.

Howard (Buck) McKeon, Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a speech that he supports several elements of Obama's strategy, including an expansion of air strikes and training and equipping the rebels.

Obama says he already has the authority he needs to expand air strikes from Iraq into Syrian territory, although he did not say in his speech when he would order them launched.

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