'US was not attacked': Strike on Syria divides lawmakers in both parties
Members of Congress are split on the question of whether President Donald Trump's ordered Tomahawk missile strikes against a Syrian airbase were in accordance with US law. Lines drawn on the issue did not follow the pattern of partisanship often seen in Washington, DC.
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.
Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer and Syria will be no different.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) April 7, 2017
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."
Assad is a brutal dictator who must be held account for atrocities. But the President's failure to seek congressional approval is unlawful— Senator Tim Kaine (@timkaine) April 7, 2017
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."
.@NewswithEd@anyaparampil@JimJatras@Yaro_RT LIVE: Re #Assad's potential reaction to strike on #Syria, 'if Assad escalates, it's all over' - Fmr Pentagon analyst https://t.co/gVFA3rREq8pic.twitter.com/zAuvUHVDsd— RT America (@RT_America) April 7, 2017
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) praised Trump's ordered attacks as "appropriate and just."
This action in Syria was appropriate and just.— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) April 7, 2017
My full statement: pic.twitter.com/oIlOT65zTC
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."
This is an act of war. Congress needs to come back into session & hold a debate. Anything less is an abdication of our responsibility. https://t.co/GvHML3ByeI— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 7, 2017
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.
Trump’s military strikes in Syria are reckless and short-sighted. -TGhttps://t.co/xM2NMwIgHF— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) April 7, 2017
“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.