President Donald Trump’s decision to authorize cruise missile strikes on a Syrian government airbase drew broad support from U.S. senators from both parties, even though some expressed concern that he did not first seek Congressional approval for the military action.
Several of President Donald Trump’s strongest political opponents backed the action. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the airstrikes “the right thing to do” in light of the alleged chemical weapon attack carried out by Syria’s military. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called it “a proportional response.”
U.S. military leaders said the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles targeted the airbase that they say was responsible for the alleged Sarin gas attack in Idlib province that killed at least 72 civilians, including women and children.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the action sent a powerful message to both U.S. allies and adversaries.
“I think it also reassures our Sunni Arab allies that America is back, in terms of playing a leadership role, and trying to be constructive in a variety of different places around the world, as well as a message to Iran, and North Korea, and the Russians, that America intends to lead again,” he said.
Lawmakers were more divided over Congress’ role.
The Obama and Trump administrations have relied on Congress’ authorization of military force following the September 2001 terror attacks to carry out strikes against terror groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida. But some lawmakers suggested Friday’s strikes against the Syrian government require new Congressional authorization.
“If the President intends to escalate the U.S. military’s involvement in Syria, he must 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,” said Minority Leader Pelosi.
Republican Senator Rand Paul criticized Friday’s strikes, saying prior U.S. interventions in Middle East conflict “have done nothing to make us safer.”
“The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution,” he said in a statement.