“Appropriate And Just”: Congress Reacts To US Airstrikes On Syria

Here’s a complete rundown of lawmaker reactions to the Trump administration’s decision to retaliate against the Bashar al-Assad regime for this week’s chemical weapons attack in Idlib.

Note that while most on Capitol Hill expressed their support, not everyone was thrilled.

Via Bloomberg

U.S. lawmakers mostly expressed support for President Trump’s strike against a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical weapons attack, though broadly cautioned that Congress needs to be consulted on a comprehensive strategy if the strike is a harbinger of things to come. It’s a contrast from 2013, when President Obama sought authorization for force against Syria but was met with widespread opposition. That effort was later abandoned for lack of support. Defense hawks and those who’ve warned against foreign military entanglements responded as expected. However, the bulk of lawmakers sought more details, with several seeking a new authorization of force specific to Syria.

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan says U.S. response to Syria’s “barbaric chemical weapons attack” is “appropriate and just”
    • “I look forward to the administration further engaging Congress in this effort”
  • Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham:
    • “Building on tonight’s credible first step, we must finally learn the lessons of history and ensure that tactical success leads to strategic progress. That means following through with a new, comprehensive strategy in coordination with our allies and partners to end the conflict in Syria”
  • Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says “making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do”
    • “It is incumbent on the Trump administration to come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it”
  • Republican Sen. Marco Rubio: “What must follow is a real and comprehensive strategy to ensure that Assad is no longer a threat to his people and to U.S. security, and that Russia no longer has free reign to support his regime”

NEW AUTHORIZATION NEEDED

  • House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi:
    • “If the president intends to escalate the U.S. military’s involvement in Syria, he must to come to Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force which is tailored to meet the threat and prevent another open-ended war in the Middle East”
  • Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren says “use of chemical weapons‎against innocent Syrian men, women, and children is a clear violation of international law”
    • Says expanded military intervention would require congressional approval and “if President Trump expects such an authorization, he owes the American people an explanation of his strategy to bring an end to the violence in Syria”
    • “We should not escalate this conflict without clear goals and a plan to achieve them,” Warren says in statement
  • Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley says it’s “essential” that “before the U.S. undertakes any ongoing military campaign in Syria, the president consult with Congress and seek congressional authorization, in accordance with Article I of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution”
    • “Many Americans are deeply wary of being drawn into another war in the Middle East. We owe the nation full consideration of the complete range of options, including pursuit of an international agreement to end the war and end Assad’s reign of terror,” Merkley says in statement

SEEKING A COMPREHENSIVE TRUMP PLAN:

  • Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton and Republican Rep. Steve Russell, leaders of the Warrior Caucus, say can’t stand by in silence as dictators murder with chemical weapons, though “military action without clear goals and objectives gets us nowhere”
  • Republican Sen. Ben Sasse:
    • “The president should propose to Congress a comprehensive strategy to protect American interests from a humanitarian crisis that threatens to destabilize our regional allies and create vacuums for jihadi sanctuaries”
  • Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of House Intelligence Committee, says actions “will not displace Assad, but may deter” use of chemical weapons in statement on Twitter
    • “Need a vote”: Schiff
  • Rep. Eliot Engel, top Democrat on House Foreign Affairs Cmte:
    • ‘‘It’s incumbent on the administration to work toward a long-term strategy that will stop the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people and hold accountable those who have committed war crimes. Tomahawk strikes are not a long-term strategy”
    • Urges support for his bill, H.R. 1677, which seeks sanctions on entities supporting Bashar Al-Assad’s Syria govt

SUPPORT FOR SHOW OF STRENGTH:

  • Rep. Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Defense subcmte:
    • “I cannot more strongly applaud President Trump’s decisive actions against the Government of Syria”
  • Republican Rep. Martha McSally praised the “measured, yet decisive” response, adding the attack showed the critical need for Raytheon’s Tomahawk production in Tucson, within her Ariz. district
  • Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson: “I support the president’s swift and decisive action to punish this dictatorship for the atrocities committed”
  • GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger, Luke Messer and Lynn Jenkins were among those with similar statements calling the strike strong or decisive, and adding it shows the U.S. won’t sit on sidelines after atrocities

AGAINST THE STRIKE:

  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.:
    • “While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked”
  • Republican Rep. Justin Amash:
    • “Airstrikes are an act of war,” he says on Twitter; “Atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war”
  • Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election:
    • “President waging military action against Syria without a vote of Congress? Unconstitutional,” he says in Twitter post
    • “Assad is a brutal dictator who must be held account for atrocities. But the president’s failure to seek congressional approval is unlawful”
  • Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who was lone vote against the 2001 AUMF
    • “Syria strikes are far beyond the scope of this war authorization,” she says in Twitter post, adding that Speaker Ryan “needs to bring a vote”
  • Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern:
    • “Every president must obtain congressional authorization to launch military strikes”; Trump’s “attack on Syria is no exception”
    • “We all agree Assad attacks on people of Syria must stop, but it doesn’t justify a rush to military action without consulting Congress,” McGovern says on Twitter
  • Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat, says Assad’s chemical weapons usage “abhorrent, but a military response is not the answer”
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