'US was not attacked': Strike on Syria divides lawmakers in both parties
The US airstrikes on the Shayrat Air Base in Homs, Syria, on Thursday evening prompted Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) to take to Twitter to criticize the US escalation in the region, not only as a strategic error, but as an act that failed to meet the standard set in the US Constitution that makes Congress responsible for declaring war.
Senator Paul has long made his opposition to US intervention in Syria clear, even after Tuesday's chemical gas attack near Idlib, Syria, which left dozens of Syrian civilians dead, including children.
Senator Paul garnered support from across the aisle on Thursday, as Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California tweeted his agreement. Lieu also questioned the purpose of the strike and called Trump a warmonger for breaking his campaign promises to get the US out of foreign wars.
Former vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) expressed similar frustration, calling Trump's unapproved airstrikes "unlawful."
There was also bipartisanship on the other side of the controversy.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said attacking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was “the right thing to do,"according to ABC News. However, he also said that it was important for the Trump administration to “come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it. I salute the professionalism and skill of our Armed Forces who took action today."
Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina issued a joint statement similar to Schumer's, but with an added jab at the Obama administration.
"Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people," Senators McCain and Graham said, encouraging Trump to "[follow] through with a new, comprehensive strategy in coordination with our allies and partners to end the conflict in Syria" and "bolster support for the vetted Syrian opposition and establish safe zones" in order to defeat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who often aligns with McCain and Graham on foreign policy, told CNN, "I don't believe this is a message. I believe this is actually a tactical action that furthers an objective, which is important."
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) praised Trump's ordered attacks as "appropriate and just."
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said they were "not a sufficient answer" to the Syrian conflict, but did not criticize them.
Elsewhere in the House, reactions from representatives ranged from stressing their importance as authorizers of the use of military force or, in at least one instance, calling the attack on Syria a "big mistake."
Debate in the Senate is anticipated to be just as extensive.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) released a statement, calling the strike a “measured response,” but also said that any further action beyond airstrikes and missile strikes would require approval from Congress and the American people.
A fierce critic of Trump, Senator Liz Warren (D-Massachusetts) did not address the US strikes specifically, but said in a Facebook post that "expanded military intervention in Syria requires action by Congress. 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."
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who recently went on a fact-finding mission to Syria, condemned the airstrikes, saying they strengthen Al-Qaeda and damage international security.
“It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government,” Gabbard said in a statement.
“This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia—which could lead to nuclear war,” she wrote.