Members of Congress reacted swiftly to President Trump’s decision Thursday night to order a cruise missile strike in response to the Syrian government’s apparent chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 civilians.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a longtime critic of the Trump administration’s stance on Syria, immediately praised the president’s action. He told CNN:
“I think this is an important, decisive step that was taken. It is not a message. It is a degrading of the capability of the Syrian regime to carry out further chemical attacks against innocent civilians. This will degrade their capability to launch those attacks from the air, and I think it was important step and hopefully it’s part of a comprehensive strategy moving forward to bring to a close this chaos that is happening in Syria.”
Other Republican lawmakers quickly signaled their support — including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — two of the upper chamber’s more hawkish members.
In a joint statement, the duo said, “Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action.”
Like Rubio, McCain and Graham urged Trump to create a new strategy for Syria. So, too, did Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., while adding that it’s incumbent on the Trump administration to “consult with Congress before implementing it.”
Questions About Constitutionality
Some Democrats and at least two Republicans are questioning the strike’s constitutionality.
They’re calling on Trump to obtain congressional authorization for U.S. military involvement in Syria.
Sen. Justin Amash, R-Mich., echoed Paul’s remarks: “Airstrikes are an act of war. Atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war.”
That notion is supported by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. — a major supporter of Congress passing a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). On Twitter, Lee characterized the airstrikes as “an act of war.”
Lee tweeted: “I was the lone vote against 2001 AUMF. Syria strikes are far beyond the scope of this war authorization. Speaker Ryan needs to bring a vote.”
President Trump — like President Obama before him — has launched airstrikes against ISIS targets using as legal justification the 2001 war authorization Congress passed after the September 11th attacks. But lawmakers are split over whether that justification covers attacks against the Assad government.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said the strike was “appropriate and just” and signaled that he also wants the Trump administration to consult Capitol Hill lawmakers on the matter. “I look forward to the administration further engaging Congress in this effort,” he said.
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